Friday afternoon in Lebanon, a 10-year-old boy unintentionally shot himself with his parent’s loaded, unlocked gun. The boy’s older brother called 911. The children’s parents were not home. The boy was last listed in stable condition but faces multiple surgeries. The shooting in Memphis came just over a month after the last accidental shooting involving a child. On March 27th in Memphis, an 11-year-old little girl was accidentally shot by a friend who was playing with a gun. She was last listed in critical condition.
“Another child with access to a loaded gun, another child accidentally shot,” said Beth Joslin Roth, policy director of The Safe Tennessee Project. “How many of these will have to happen before lawmakers decide to act? The frequency of these shootings and the fact our legislators chose to do absolutely nothing to address them is unconscionable. This 10-year-old boy was seriously injured. Reports are that he will face multiple surgeries and a long road to recovery. This wasn’t a tragic accident – it was a 100% preventable tragedy.”
House Civil Justice Committee members decided to kill the bill in a closed-door “pre-meeting” the day before the hearing. In the public committee hearing on March 22nd, not a single member voting “NO” offered a reason for their vote. Pressed by reporters later, committee co-chair Jon Lundberg said “We might fix it with this situation but at the same time create 15 to 20 situations where someone who is the potential victim of a home invasion can’t get to a gun, can’t get a trigger lock opened, and things are going on and they are killed.”
“Legislators offered a litany of possible, hypothetical scenarios as reasons for voting against MaKayla’s Law,” said Roth. “But, they ignore the tragic list of real-life incidents where Tennessee kids were actually injured or killed – a shameful 32 in the 16 months we’ve been tracking them, including two in the very week they voted against MaKayla’s Law. Sadly, this week, we add another name to this horrible list.”
As amended, MaKayla’s Law would have charged careless gun owners with a felony only in situations where an irresponsibly stored gun was discharged by a child under 13, injuring or killing the child or another person. The amendment, which made significant changes to the original bill and was adopted by the House Civil Justice Subcommittee, was never addressed by the NRA.
Despite promoting responsible storage on their website, the NRA targeted MaKayla’s Law for two weeks, singling it out for opposition. NRA lobbyist Erin Luper suggested that simply telling children not to touch guns and to run away from them was all that was required to prevent unintentional shootings of children by children.“Teaching gun safety to children is of course something that we support,” Roth said. “However, the two children we lost this year were toddlers and many of the older children have grown up around guns and have been taught gun safety. But, they made a bad choice which kids are known to do. Gun safety training is one component, sure, but the most important component is keeping guns safely stored.”
The Safe Tennessee Project will be sending out press releases every time a Tennessee child is injured or killed as a result of an irresponsibly stored gun, including the count of children injured and killed so far this year and since Safe Tennessee began tracking these incidents in January 2015.
Both The Safe Tennessee Project and MaKayla’s Law sponsors Senator Sara Kyle and Representative Sherry Jones have vowed to bring the bill back next year.
“We will keep fighting for this bill to pass, no matter how long it takes,” Roth said. “Considering our dubious distinction as a state with a disproportionate number of accidental shootings, we will continue to call on state lawmakers to take action and pass legislation that will hold irresponsible gun owners accountable when their carelessness results in the injury of death of a child.”
KIDS WITH ACCESS TO GUNS – BY THE NUMBERS
Since January 2016
Total incidents: 8
Since January 2015
Total incidents: 30
HOUSE CIVIL JUSTICE MEMBERS WHO VOTED AGAINST MAKAYLA’S LAW
Rep. Martin Daniel
Rep. John Forgerty
Rep. Jamie Jenkins
Rep. Courtney Rogers