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A 3-year-old toddler fatally shot himself in the face .40 caliber pistol Friday afternoon in Clarksville.  The child was visiting from Fort Riley, Kansas, with his family.  The gun belonged to the homeowner.

This is the 13th incident of a child in our state gaining access to a loaded gun and shooting themselves or someone else this year.  Already in 2016, a 7-year-old in Crossville was fatally shot in the head by a sibling who unintentionally discharged a loaded gun their mother left in their car, and a 3-year-old in Apison fatally shot himself in the head after finding a loaded gun in his family’s minivan.  The 3-year-old toddler from Clarksville is the third child to die as a result of an irresponsibly stored firearm in 2016

“These horrific tragedies are 100% preventable.  They are not accidents,” said Beth Joslin Roth, policy director for The Safe Tennessee Project.  “They are the direct result of a decision by an irresponsible gun owner to not take the most basic safety precautions and store their gun properly when children are present.”

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This sign was displayed in the front yard of the home where the shooting took place.

Even if a parent responsibly stores their own guns, it is imperative that they always ask about gun storage when their child is visiting another home.

“As parents, we have a responsibility to be sure our kids are safe, not just in our homes, but when they are visiting a friend for a play date, a sleepover, or an out-of-town visit,” said Roth.  “Asking ‘do you have unlocked guns in your home?’ is a simple but important question.  It’s not a judgment.  It’s a question that could save your child’s life.”

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Tennessee has a serious problem with accidental shootings.  According to the CDC, Tennessee has ranked in the top 10 states for accidental shootings for the last five years. Last year the CDC released a report that noted that “accidental discharge of firearms” was the “most distinctive cause of death” for two states, Alabama and Tennessee. 

In a Johns Hopkins School of Public Health study released earlier this year, Tennessee was one of seven states flagged as having both a disproportionate number of accidental shootings and no laws requiring the safe storage of guns.

Ironically, the Johns Hopkins study was released just days before a bill to address this exact issue was introduced.

MaKayla’s Law, a bill that would have held adult gun owners responsible if a child under 13 gained access to their loaded gun, discharged it, and injured or killed themselves or someone else, was introduced in late February and debated throughout March.  Despite overwhelming support from responsible gun owners, gun safety instructors, and the Tennessee chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the bill was killed in a closed-door “pre-meeting” of the House Civil Justice Committee under pressure from the NRA.

The NRA’s position was that adults should instruct children not to touch guns and to alert an adult if they encounter one, and that gun-owning adults should refer to the NRA’s website for safe storage recommendations.

The shooting in Clarksville is the 7th child-involved shooting, and the first fatality since MaKayla’s Law was voted down on March 22.

The Safe Tennessee Project and the bill sponsors plan to bring MaKayla’s Law back in the 2017 legislative session.

The Safe Tennessee Project endorses the Brady Campaigns ASK: Asking Saves Kids Program.

A recent episode of “Grey’s Anatomy” addressed this topic.  At the conclusion, Ellen Pompeo discussed the importance of ASK.


Total incidents: 13 
Injuries to children: 9
Injuries to adults: 1

Fatalities: 3

Clarksville – July 1, 2016 – FATALITY
A 3-year-old toddler fatally shot himself in the face with a .40 caliber pistol. The child was visiting from Fort Riley, Kansas, with his family. The gun belonged to the homeowner.

May 26, 2016 – Murfreesboro – INJURY
A boy who was cleaning a rifle he thought was unloaded unintentionally fired it. The bullet struck his father in the leg. He was airlifted to Vanderbilt. His condition is unknown.

May 12, 2016 – Memphis – INJURY
An 18-year-old was unintentionally shot in the chest as she got ready for prom. A 17-year-old friend was “playing around with a gun” when it went off, shooting the young woman and leaving her in critical condition. The 17-year-old was charged with aggravated assault.

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

April 30, 2016 – Memphis – INJURY
A 17-year-old unintentionally shot himself near the campus of the University of Memphis.

April 29, 2016 – Lebanon – INJURY
A 10-year-old found a loaded shotgun and unintentionally shot himself in the abdomen.  He has been taken to the hospital.

March 24, 2016 – Memphis – INJURY
An 11-year-old little girl was shot by a playmate who was playing with a gun. She was taken to the hospital in critical condition.

March 19, 2016 – Nashville – INJURY
A 14-year-old boy in Nashville accidentally shot himself in the leg. He was taken to the hospital with non-life threatening injuries. No word on how he had access to a loaded gun.

February 29, 2016 – Apison
3-year-old Gavin Pittman accidentally shot himself in the head in his family’s minivan.  The minivan was parked outside the family’s home.  The child’s mother was charged with criminally negligent homicide and child endangerment.

February 5, 2016 – East Ridge
A 16-year-old was found in a bedroom with a 15-year-old friend and a .380 semi-automatic handgun. The older child had been unintentionally shot by the younger one. The victim was transported to the hospital with serious injuries. Police report that his prognosis is not favorable. The shooter has been charged with aggravated assault. No information on how the boys had access to the gun. No adults have been charged.

January 25, 2016 – Crossville – FATALITY
Parents left four siblings in a car while they went inside a Verizon store to pay a bill. One child found a semi-automatic pistol left inside the mother’s purse and accidentally shot a 7-year-old boy also in the car. The child was shot in the head. He was flown to a Knoxville trauma center for medical treatment where he died. No charges have been filed.

January 3, 2016 – Knoxville
A 15-year-old boy and some friends were playing with a gun in the teen’s bedroom. The gun fired, injuring the boy. Initially the boy lied about what happened, saying he didn’t know how he was shot. The injured boy’s parents say that one of the boy’s friends brought the gun over to the house. No word yet on any charges or how the teen with the gun had access to it.

 January 3, 2016 – Memphis
According to police, a 15-year-old boy’s father was approaching the house when he heard two shots. The teen opened the door and said he shot himself. The boy was taken to the Regional Medical Center in critical condition, police said.


Rep. Jim Coley

Rep. Mike Carter

Rep. Jon Lundberg

Rep. Martin Daniel

Rep. John Forgerty

Rep. Jamie Jenkins

Rep. Courtney Rogers