Tennessee led the nation in negligent-firearm storage shootings in 2017

Tennessee’s problem with kids and negligently-stored firearms is not getting any better.  In fact, it’s getting worse.

Our state led the entire nation for these shootings last year.

According to data from the Children’s Firearm Safety Alliance (CFSA), an organization that tracks unintentional shootings involving children and unsecured firearms, in 2017, Tennessee led the entire nation in the number of children who picked up an unsecured, loaded gun and shot themselves or someone else.   There were 31 of these shootings in the Volunteer state last year.  Texas was second with 23.

The Safe Tennessee Project began tracking these incidents in 2015.  The numbers from 2015 and 2016 were similar.  In 2017, however, there was a significant increase in the number of incidents and the number of fatalities.

The number of deaths doubled.


Of the 31 incidents in Tennessee, 17 of the shooters were under the age of 13.

Nine of the shooters were under the age of 7.

The youngest shooter was a one year old in Nashville.  The baby’s father placed the child on a bed after a bath and left the room.  The baby found a loaded firearm on the bed and fired it.  The bullet grazed the child’s face.  A two-year-old in Nashville found an unsecured firearm in his home and pulled the trigger, fatally shooting his seven-year-old cousin.

Of the 31 incidents in Tennessee, 17 of the shooters shot themselves. Seven of them died.  Eight shot a sibling, cousin, or other relative.

There were fourteen of these shootings in Memphis, more than in any other U.S. city.  There were six in Nashville.

Every one of these shootings was preventable. Every single one of them.  They are not accidents.  They are preventable tragedies.

Every parent must discuss gun safety with their children. They must teach them what to do if they encounter a gun, in their own home or anywhere else – leave the area immediately and find an adult. However, as numerous published academic studies have shown, and as a recent Government Accountability Office analysis found, gun safety training is in no way a substitution for safe and responsible firearm storage, and that many of the children who participate in the training will still pick up a gun.  Even children who have received training, even those who have been brought up around guns and are familiar with them, are still likely of making a mistake, too often a fatal mistake.

For two years, Safe Tennessee has brought these numbers and published academic research on the issue to Tennessee legislators.  And for two years, the National Rifle Association has blocked any and all attempts to pass legislation that would require gun owners to store firearms responsibly (as per the NRA’s own storage recommendations) or hold gun owners responsible when their choice to leave a gun accessible to a child under 13 results in an injury or death.  Their lobbyist touts the Eddie Eagle gun safety training as the most effective way to prevent these shootings, despite the peer-reviewed studies to the contrary. The majority of legislators, many of whom desperately fear being “primaried” by an NRA-picked candidate, agree with the fantastical idea – an idea wholly unsupported by factual evidence – that simply showing children a cartoon of an eagle singing a song about not touching guns is an adequate protection.

Former Tennessee State Representative Debra Maggart discusses being the target of the NRA

Our state should dedicate funds to a statewide public awareness campaign focused on responsible gun storage. They should also pass MaKayla’s Law and require adult gun owners to take responsibility when their negligence leads to the death or injury of a child.  But, our legislators will do neither.  And why is that?

Because protecting their relationship with the NRA is more important to them than protecting children.

Click here for a list of all negligent-storage shootings in Tennessee from 2015 to the present.