In a vote straight down party lines, MaKayla’s Law, a bill that sought to hold gun owners responsible if a child was injured or killed with a loaded gun left unsecured and accessible, was defeated today in the House Civil Justice Committee. Those voting against the bill offered no reason for their vote in the public, televised committee meeting.
“While we are incredibly disappointed, we are not surprised. We were told that committee members met yesterday in a private “pre-meeting” where it was decided they would kill the bill,” said Beth Joslin Roth, policy director for The Safe Tennessee Project. “The National Rifle Association was against the bill, and in this state and with this legislature, pleasing the NRA is more important than taking steps to address these preventable tragedies that continue to injure and kill Tennessee kids. We now know that this is a growing problem in this state and our legislators’ answer is to do absolutely nothing about it.”
MaKayla’s Law would have had no impact whatsoever on the vast majority of gun owners in Tennessee who are responsible and would never allow loaded guns to carelessly be left where their children or grandchildren would find them. The law would only have applied in situations where a child finds a loaded, accessible gun, fires it, and injures or kills themselves or someone else.
The Safe Tennessee Project tracks incidents where children encounter loaded, unlocked guns and fire them. Over the last fifteen months, there have been 30 incidents. 18 injuries and a staggering 12 deaths. The youngest victim was only 2-years-old. The youngest fatality this year was three. The most recent incident was last Friday.
In a recent Johns Hopkins study, Tennessee was noted as being one of seven states with a disproportionately high number of accidental shootings. All seven states also lacked safe storage laws.
The NRA and the National Shooting Sports Foundation are both quite clear that, while it’s very important to teach children gun safety, firearms must always be safely stored. The NRA’s website says guns should be stored “so they are not accessible to unauthorized persons, especially children.” The NSSF says, “Your most important responsibility is ensuring that children cannot encounter loaded firearms. The precautions you take must be effective. Anything less invites tragedy and is a serious violation of your responsibility as a firearm owner.”
The bill had the support of a wide array of Tennesseans, including gun store owners, gun range instructors, responsible gun owners, gun violence prevention organizations, district attorneys, parents, citizens, and the Tennessee chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. They all agree that the legislation is needed to address the growing number of these incidents.
“It’s astonishing that the NRA would fight so hard to kill a bill that simply codifies their own safe storage recommendations into law,” Roth said. “In a perfect world, all parents would follow the NRA and NSSF guidelines for safe gun storage, but we don’t live in a perfect world. Too many kids are being injured and killed when adults who should be looking out for them are instead careless and irresponsible. The NRA, which claims to be committed to firearm safety, should have supported this legislation. Instead, they made sure it would be killed in a secret meeting. It’s shameful.”
The Safe Tennessee Project will continue to raise awareness on the issue of safe storage and plans to bring MaKayla’s Law back next session.
CHILDREN WITH ACCESS TO GUNS IN TENNESSEE – BY THE NUMBERS
Based on media accounts, since January of 2015, there have been:
*30 incidents of a child finding a loaded gun, discharging it and injuring or killing themselves or someone else.
18 resulted in injuries
12 resulted in deaths
In 2015, there were 24 incidents.
14 resulted in injuries
10 resulted in deaths, including 8-year-old MaKayla Dyer
*Since January of 2016, there have been 6 incidents.
4 resulted in injuries
2 resulted in deaths
*The number of incidents is higher that what we reported in the last press release we sent out Friday afternoon as there was another accidental shooting of a child Friday evening.