On Friday, the USA Today Network and the Associated Press published findings from an analysis of unintentional shootings of children between 2014 and 2016.  Their results showed that children die in gun “accidents” more often than the government knows.

Using data from The Gun Violence Archive, the analysis looked at all states. As part of their reporting, included a sortable table of the Gun Violence Archive numbers, allowing states to determine where they rank in relation to one another.  Based on incidents per million, Tennessee ranks 4th in the nation for accidental shootings of children between 2014 – 2016. As for cities with high numbers of these incidents,  Memphis ranks first in the nation while Nashville ranks tenth.

“Our ranking is a sad reminder of our state’s ongoing problem with these unintentional shootings,” said Beth Joslin Roth, policy director for The Safe Tennessee Project.  “Being fourth in the nation is not surprising to us. We track all reported unintentional shootings in our state and many of them involve kids.  Everyone of them is heartbreaking, but they’re also infuriating because they are the result of an adult’s choice to leave a loaded gun where a child can get to it.  Yet, our efforts to address these children being injured and killed are ignored.  We tried to pass MaKayla’s Law to hold gun owners responsible.  The bill never got out of committee.  We tried to advance a bill to require gun sellers to simply display a sign with safe storage recommendations.  It went nowhere.  Sadly, we have lawmakers who indicate that they want their NRA score ‘to be as high as you can get it’ and who refer to unintentional shootings of children as ‘acts of God’ and out of our control.

“Make no mistake – these shootings are not ‘acts of God’.  They are 100 percent fully preventable tragedies and they are well within our control.”

The Safe Tennessee Project plans to work with legislators to bring MaKayla’s Law back in 2017 and will continue to encourage all gun owners to store their guns securely, locked and unloaded when not in use, as is recommended by the National Rifle Association and the National Shooting Sports Foundation.

Roth, along with Missouri state Representative Stacey Newman, recently launched The Children’s Firearm Safety Alliance (CFSA), a national organization to address unintentional shootings of children. On Friday, CFSA held a press conference at the St. Louis Institute of Public Health on the campus of the Washington University Medical School.  So far, CFSA has over 30 endorsers across the country, including physicians, attorneys, public health professionals, mayors, and lawmakers.

“This most recent analysis illustrates an issue that we are faced with often,” Roth said.  “As a result of the federal ban on funding for any kind of gun violence research, it is extraordinarily difficult to fully grasp the scope of unintentional shootings, including those involving children.  The USA Today/AP analysis found that the CDC numbers are an undercount compared to what’s reported.  We have had similar experiences in Tennessee.  To study a public health issue requires good data.  Because of the federal funding ban, researchers have to work that much harder and must rely on the media for help.  This is a problem unique only to gun violence research.”

Following the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando, the American Medical Association called on Congress to lift the Ban on CDC gun violence research.  The ban remains in place. 


Total unintentional shootings involving children: 27
Unintentional shootings involving children – injuries: 20
Unintentional shootings involving children – deaths: 7

Children under 13 pulling the trigger: 7
Unintentional shootings of children in Memphis: 9
Unintentional shootings of children in Nashville: 3
Unintentional shootings of children occurring in family car: 2
Unintentional shootings of children occurring at a friend’s home: 3
Unintentional shootings where a child shot or was shot by a friend, family member or sibling: 17

Date from Safe Tennessee Project Unintentional Shootings 2016 web page and Safe Tennessee Project Unintentional Shootings Database.

October 2, 2016 – Memphis – Injury
A 16-year-old was shot on the 3400 block of Dupre Street, according to Memphis police. Officers said the shooting happened just before 8 p.m. The victim and friends where handling the weapon, the gun fired and the victim was hit in the abdomen. The victim was rushed to the hospital in critical condition.

September 25, 2016 – Nashville – Injury
A car pulled up to a residence in Donelson. A 2-year-old child that doesn’t live at the residence was able to pick up a loaded gun from a door pocket of the car and fire the gun, striking a 12-year-old in the hip. The child was transported to the hospital with non-life threatening injuries. The driver of the vehicle, according to police, can legally carry the firearm, but does not have a carry permit.

September 6, 2016 – Louisville – Injury
A 9-year-old boy was shot in the head when the gun his mother was handling unintentionally discharged.  The bullet traveled through the floor of the family’s apartment and struck the child who was in a room below.  No charges filed.

August 30, 2016 – Nashville – Injury
A 3-year-old gained access to his father’s loaded, unsecured gun and shot himself in the hand.  He was taken to the hospital.  His injuries are not considered life-threatening.  The gun belonged to the child’s father who is a security guard with a gun permit.

August 8, 2016 – Hendersonville – Fatality
An 11-year-old girl was accidentally shot by her father.  He was awakened by a sound and shot at his daughter.  The girl died from her injuries.  Initially the father told police she had been shot outside the home after getting off the school bus. The father has been charged with reckless homicide, tampering with evidence, false reporting and possessing a firearm as a felon.

July 10, 2016 – Lawrence County – Injury
An Amish boy was unintentionally shot with a .22 rifle by another Amish boy while the two were playing. The victim was taken to Vanderbilt for treatment.

July 3, 2016 – East Ridge – Fatality
A 17-year-old accidentally shot herself with a revolver in an apartment she was visiting in East Ridge. No details on who the gun belonged to. The girl later died from her injuries.

July 1, 2016 – Clarksville – 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.

June 26, 2016 – Haywood County – Fatality
A fight at a party ended in gunfire and 17-year-old girl was fatally shot by a stray bullet as she hid.

June 9, 2016 – Memphis – Injury
A family, including a 4-year-old boy, was locked out of their home.  A family friend attempted to climb through the window to open the door.  As he climbed through the window, a gun fell from his pants and discharged, firing a bullet that hit the 4-year-old.  The child was taken to the hospital with non-critical injuries.–injured-in-accidental-shooting–382469211.html

June 7, 2016 – Lawrenceburg – Injury
Caleb Young, 10, was shot in the chest at close range Tuesday night while outside shooting with the BB gun with another boy.

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 in serious condition.  His injuries were severe and it’s been reported that he faces many surgeries.

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.

March 14, 2016 – Chattanooga – Injury
A 15-year-old teen was accidentally shot in what Chattanooga police describe as an “domestic-related” shooting. No word on his condition.

February 29, 2016 – Apison – Fatality
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 – Injury
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 adult has been charged.

February 4, 2016 – Memphis – Injury
A 20-year-old was handling a gun that fired and hit a 16-year-old girl. Police report the two knew each other and that the shooting was an accident. The 20-year-old has been charged with aggravated assault and reckless endangerment. The victim is in stable condition.

January 25, 2016 – Crossville – Fatality
Parents left four children 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 5, 2016 – Memphis – Injury
According to police, a 21-year-old man and another person were handling a gun in the upstairs part of a townhome-style apartment when the gun accidentally discharged. The bullet went through the floor, striking a 13-year-old girl who was holding a 12-week-old boy, police said. LeTara Jones, a sixth-grader at Humes Preparatory Academy, was taken to Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital in critical condition and later died. The infant was grazed by a bullet and was in noncritical condition at the hospital.

January 5, 2016 – Memphis – Fatality
According to police, a 21-year-old man and another person were handling a gun in the upstairs part of a townhome-style apartment when the gun accidentally discharged. The bullet went through the floor, striking a 13-year-old girl who was holding a 12-week-old boy, police said.  LeTara Jones, a sixth-grader at Humes Preparatory Academy, was taken to Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital in critical condition and later died. The infant was grazed by a bullet and was in noncritical condition at the hospital.

January 3, 2016 – Knoxville – Injury
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 – Injury
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.