It’s been a terrible ten days for unintentional shootings in Tennessee. There have been six unintentional shooting incidents in the state since April 29.  Four involved adults and two involved children with access to loaded guns. One of the adults did not survive.

“We’ve tracked six unintentional shootings in eight days,” said Beth Joslin Roth, policy director for The Safe Tennessee Project.  “These numbers are startling, even for Tennessee.”

When The Safe Tennessee Project was founded, one key area of focus was accidental or unintentional shootings. Using news alerts and cross-referencing media stories with those catalogued by The Gun Violence Archive, Safe Tennessee began tracking incidents of unintentional shootings, both those where children unintentionally shoot themselves or someone else with an accessible loaded gun as well as those that occur when an adult unintentionally shoots themselves or someone else.  Although most incidents involving kids occur when a child pulls the trigger, there are also instances where an adult unintentionally shoots a child.

“Unfortunately, because we have so many of these shootings, it didn’t take long before tracking them became extremely cumbersome,” explained Roth.  “We were collecting quite a bit of information on each incident, but there was no easy way to disseminate it, nor was there an easy way to search and sort incident characteristics. To address these issues, we created a database that anyone can search.  Over the last month, we’ve gone through incidents from last year, reviewed updated news stories, and uploaded all of the incidents we’ve tracked since 2015 into a searchable database.

“As many of these as we’ve tracked, we also know that this is undoubtedly an undercount,” Roth noted. “Not all unintentional shootings make the news.  Our numbers reflect only those incidents that are reported in the media.”

The database, powered by Google Fusion, allows anyone to search information by any combination of criteria including date, city, age of victim, *permit holder status, and whether the shooting was self-inflicted or involved someone else such as a sibling, friend, neighbor, or sibling.

Over the last few months, the state has been focused on the number of unintentional shootings involving children with access to guns.  So far this year, there have been nine shootings where a child has been injured or killed as a result of an accessible loaded gun, two of which were fatal.

In the last ten days alone, there have been two incidents where a child unintentionally shot and injured themselves.

Additionally in 2016, there have been four incidents where an adult unintentionally shot a child one of which was fatal.

Although the number of children who have been unintentionally shot is up from last year (+4 incidents so far this year), the number of adult-related accidental shootings is up dramatically from the same time last year.  As of May 9, 2016, there have been 22 total incidents involving adults compared to only eight during the same time period last year.  There were 27 adult-related incidents in all of 2015.

“As our legislature continues to pass laws expanding where guns can be carried, we’ve been watching these unintentional shooting numbers climb,” Roth said.  “In just one 10-day period in February, there were six separate incidents.  All but one of them happened in a public place, including the shooter’s place of employment, an employer’s parking lot, a restaurant parking lot, and a shooting range.  Four adults unintentionally shot themselves or someone else between April 30th and May 9th. One person’s injuries were fatal.  In one incident, a stranger was shot.  Allowing people to carry guns in more places only increases the odds of more of these incidents happening in public.  It’s the very definition of an accident looking for a place to happen.”

JAN - MAY COMPS 15 -16“There have been 35 unintentional shooting incidents in the first 18 weeks of the year, an average of around two each week and double the number from this time last year. This is unacceptable and we refuse to accept it as the status quo,” said Roth.  “We absolutely support the second amendment and an individual’s right to own a firearm. However, if a person can’t store their gun responsibly or handle it without unintentionally discharging it, they are not only a danger to themselves, their carelessness and irresponsibility creates a public safety risk.”

* A Tennessee law passed in 2013 requires all permit holder information to be kept confidential. Permit holder status is considered “unknown” unless the news report references the status of the gun owner.


May 9, 2016 – Knoxville
A Knoxville man was shooting at a backstop to to check the accuracy of the sites on his weapon. One of the bullets fired went beyond the backstop, through a wooded area, and struck a vehicle. A 33-year-old man was seated in the vehicle and struck in the left arm. His injuries are not life-threatening.

 May 7, 2016 – Smyrna
A 2-year-old child was able to gain access to a loaded gun and accidenatlly shot herself. She was Life-Flighted to Vanderbilt and is expected to survive.

 May 2, 2016 – Murfreesboro
While cleaning his Mossberg shotgun, a 37-year-old Murfreesboro man shot himself in the foot. He was taken to the hospital with serious, but not life threatening injuries.

 April 30, 2016 – Huntingdon
Police responded to a call and found an 18-year-old man suffering from a gunshot wound to the head.  A 38 Smith & Wesson revolver lying next to him.  He was taken to the hospital where he later died.  The TBI and Huntingdon Police Department concluded that the shooting was unintentional.

 April 30, 2016 – Greeneville
A man had just purchased a Smith & Wesson .38 Special from a friend and was attempting to open the cylinder “and the gun discharged, hitting the victim in the right foot.

April 29, 2016 – Lebanon
A 10-year-old found a loaded shotgun and unintentionally shot himself in the abdomen. He has been taken to the hospital in serious condition.  His injuries were severe and it’s been reported that he faces many surgeries.


February 23, 2016 – Memphis
According to witnesses, an employee of Corky’s Ribs and BBQ in Cordova was stepping out of his car and showing his gun to someone when it discharged. The man, a 21-year-old, described as a good person, is in currently in critical condition.

February 22, 2016 – Greeneville
A Greeneville city official was exiting his work vehicle when his .22 caliber handgun discharged, striking him in the stomach. He was airlifted to the Johnson City Medical Center where he died several weeks later as a result of his injuries.

February 20, 2016 – Knoxville
While at a West Knox County shooting range, a woman was hit in the back of the head with what appears to be a ricocheted bullet. She was transported to UT Medical Center for treatment.

 February 16, 2016 – Knoxville
An employee at City View Magazine with a valid carry permit was holstering his handgun after using the restroom when he accidentally shot himself in the right leg. He was taken to the hospital to be treated.

February 14, 2016 – Memphis
While in an adult bookstore, a man reached into his pocket for his cellphone and unintentionally discharged his weapon instead. The man had a permit but it expired in 2013.

 February 13, 2016 – Greeneville
A Greeneville man was cleaning his gun when it jammed. While trying to clear the gun, it fired and grazed his right hand. He was treated and released from the hospital.


So far this year, there have been four unintentional shootings in Greeneville, Tennessee.  There were three in the east Tennessee city last year..

Since January 2015, Memphis has had the most unintentional shooting incidents with 14 followed by Nashville with 10, Greeneville with 7, Knoxville with 6, Murfreesboro with 6, and Chattanooga with 5.

Even experienced and trained professionals are not immune from unintentionally firing their firearm.  While providing security at a Smyrna Town Hall meeting in February 2015, a SWAT team officer unintentionally fired his gun as he rose from a chair. In March of 2015, a TWRA officer in Morgan County unintentionally discharged his weapon as he taught a gun safety class to adults and children.

There have been at least two incidents of a valid permit holder unintentionally discharging a gun while at their place of employment, one in Chattanooga and one in Knoxville.  A Seymour man identified as an executive of a firearm supply company shot himself at work but his permit status is unknown.

Adults most often unintentionally shoot themselves.  However, since 2015, a stranger was unintentionally shot at least four times.  In five incidents, a friend was unintentionally shot.  In one instance, a man mistook his girlfriend for an intruder and fatally shot her.

Since January 2015, Tennessee children with access to loaded, unsecured guns have unintentionally shot themselves 16 times and shot a friend or playmate 11 times, two of which were fatal.  During that same time period, at least three children shot a sibling, two of which were fatal.

Most child-involved unintentional shootings occur at home, but in two incidents, children found loaded, unsecured guns in their family’s vehicle. Both were fatal. In one of these case, a child unintentionally shot a 7-year-old younger sibling, while in the other case,  Both shootings happened earlier this year as MaKayla’s Law was being filed and debated in Tennessee Legislature.

In 2015, at least three incidents involving children with access to guns either occurred at the home of a law enforcement officer, with a gun belonging to a law enforcement officer, or involved the child of a law enforcement officer.

Since MaKayla’s Law was killed in committee in March, there have been three children shot with loaded, unsecured.  An 11-year-old little girl in Memphis was shot by a playmate just two days after lawmakers said no to the legislation and over the last 10 days, a 10-year-old in Lebanon was seriously injured when he shot himself in the stomach and a 2-year-old toddler in Smyrna shot herself in the cheek.

By the end of 2015, at least 83 U.S. children under 18 picked up a gun and fatally shot themselves or someone by accident. In that same period in Tennessee, 9 children under 18 were fatally shot themselves or another child.

In a recent study conducted by The Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, Tennessee was flagged as one of seven states with a disproportionate number of accidental shootings and a lack of meaningful Child Access Prevention (CAP) laws.

Last spring, the Centers for Disease Control released a report that noted that accidental shootings were the “most distinctive cause of death” in Tennessee, a designation shared only by Alabama.