On Monday, a 3-year-old in Antioch shot himself in the foot with an unsecured and loaded gun and overnight, an east Nashville 1-year-old, left unattended, picked up a loaded gun and shot himself with it.  Two weeks ago, a 10-year-old in Chattanooga was playing with his parent’s 9mm handgun as he talked to a friend on his computer when he unintentionally shot himself in the arm.  And, that’s just in May.

“The fact that these 100% preventable shootings happen over and over is frustrating and infuriating,” said Beth Joslin Roth, policy director for The Safe Tennessee Project.  “These kids are being injured and killed as a direct result of an adult’s irresponsible choice to leave a loaded firearm unsecured. We know that our state has a disproportionate number of these incidents.  We’ve asked our legislators to address the issue.  They refuse.  And kids keep getting shot.”

A joint investigation by USA Today and the Associated Press last fall found that gun accidents kill at least one child every other day in the US.  The report found that Memphis ranked first among the nations’s larger cities in accidental shootings of minors. Nashville ranked tenth .  A study published last year by the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health found that Tennessee was one of seven states that “suffered disproportionately high rates of unintentional firearm deaths”.  The study also noted than “none of the seven states have laws requiring the safe storage of guns, which have been shown to prevent accidental shootings, especially among children.”

“My organization is interested in data and research and when you study the peer reviewed literature on this subject, you see that states that take this issue seriously and address it legislatively have fewer of these kinds of shootings,” Roth said.  “Of course, it’s important to educate children about gun safety and what to do if they encounter a gun, but that’s not enough.  Many of these children are young kids.  The two incidents this week involved toddlers.  And, any parent knows that even older kids often make bad decisions. Numerous studies have shown that just telling a child not to pick up a gun is not sufficient. The responsibility to keep kids safe from these fully preventable tragedies falls squarely on adults.  Every gun in a child’s hand first passed through an adult’s.”

In the 2017 legislative session, “MaKayla’s Law”, a bill that would have held adult gun owners responsible if they left a gun accessible to a child who then shot and killed themselves or someone else with it, failed to advance out of the Senate Judiciary Committee. This was the second year Sen. Sara Kyle of Memphis and Rep. Sherry Jones of Nashville sought to pass a child access prevention (CAP) law in the Tennessee General Assembly.  This year’s bill was voted down on March 22.  Since then, there have been six shootings involving a Tennessee child with access to a loaded and unsecured firearm.


Guns should always be stored unloaded in a secured locking device until ready to use.

Ammunition should be stored in a locked location separate from firearms and out of the reach of children.

Parents should always ask how guns are stored any place their child visits or plays, be it a friend or relative’s home or elsewhere.


Total incidents: 10
Injuries to children: 8
Fatalities: 2

May 17, 2017 – Nashville – INJURY
A man was bathing his children around 2am. He took his 1-year-old out of the bath tub, placed him on a bed and left the room, The child found a loaded gun and fired it, grazing his face.

May 15, 2017 – Nashville – INJURY
A 3-year-old child was staying with a man and his wife when he found a loaded, unsecured gun in a bedroom and fired it, striking himself in the foot.

May 5, 2017 – Chattanooga – INJURY
A 10-year-old boy was playing with his parent’s 9mm Glock handgun as he talked to a friend on his computer when he discharged the gun and shot himself in the arm.

April 14, 2017 – Memphis – INJURY
Four boys, two brothers, and two cousins were home alone when they found a small-caliber handgun. The 13-year-old boy started playing with the gun and accidentally shot his 12-year-old cousin. The gun was left unsecured, and there were no parents at home.

April 9, 2017 – Chattanooga – INJURY
A 13-year-old boy was shot in the head in his home in Chattanooga. Another boy in the house, who was 16, called 911.  Police found no evidence that the shooting was “anything other than an accident.”

March 24, 2017 – Nashville – INJURY
Three teenagers were in a car when a 13-year-old was shot in the leg by someone else in the vehicle.

February 26, 2017 – Perry County – FATALITY
A 13-year-old boy was unintentionally shot and killed by a 12-year-old relative as the two children were in a bedroom playing with a handgun taken from a family member’s backpack. The victim was taken to Perry County Hospital where he died from his injuries.

February 20, 2017 – Memphis – INJURY
A 4-year-old was unintentionally shot by his brother. The brother was playing with the gun and dropped it, causing it to discharge. The children’s grandmother claims she fired a gun to intimidate people she said had shot into her home. She said she put the gun “back into the box but forgot to lock it.”

January 17, 2017 – Cocke County – FATALITY
The mother of a 12-year-old boy called EMS to report that her son had shot himself.  Upon arrival, EMS tried to revive the child but he did not survive.

January 17, 2017 – Springfield – INJURY
A 5-year-old found a handgun in a bedroom and fired it, striking the child’s 9-year-old cousin in the arm.  No charges have been filed.

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