We are not even halfway through December, and there have already been at least 50 shootings across Tennessee, resulting in at least 35 deaths and 34 injuries, according to media reports collected by The Gun Violence Archive.

Two of the fatalities were pregnant mothers, one in Memphis and one in Brownsville. In the Brownsville incident, the mother’s 8-year-old little girl was also shot. She survived, but is now paralyzed. The family does not have insurance and is not sure how they will pay her medical bills or the costs that will be associated with her ongoing care. 

The Brownsville mom was named Alexis Branch. She was 24. The Memphis mom was named Sierra Parsons.  She was 31.Two of the fatalities were a 43-year-old mother and her 12-year-old son in Franklin. The mother, Rachel Narancich, described by friends and family members as “full of God” fatally shot her son and then turned the gun on herself. The boy’s name was Asher. He was a middle schooler.

Ian Austin, 10

One of the fatalities was a 10-year-old little boy in Putnam County who used a gun to take his own life. His name was Ian Austin and he was in the fourth grade.

One of the fatalities was a teen who was unintentionally shot by a friend. The 19 and 18-year-old were visiting a house, found a gun, and were playing with it when it discharged. The older teen who was handling the gun now faces a charge of reckless homicide and a lifetime of guilt, not to mention the trauma of seeing his friend die in front of him.

While the tragic murder-suicide in Franklin and the Putnam County child who took his own life were covered by the media, the majority of suicides are not. Based on data from the CDC, we know that 1-2 Tennesseans use a gun to take their own lives every single day. That means that it is likely that there have been at least 48 gun deaths in just the first 13 days of December.

As bad as that sounds, it is actually on par for firearm mortality in the Volunteer state. On average, around 100 people – moms, dads, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, friends – lose their lives to bullets across the state each month.

A life taken every seven hours.

Gun violence in Tennessee is a public health crisis. Based on the most recent CDC data, we are 11th for firearm mortality, seventh for firearm homicide, and fourth for both youth gun death and gun homicides

According to FBI data, Tennessee is currently fifth in the nation for women murdered by men, most often with a firearm and almost always by a man they know. Tennessee has ranked in the top ten states for women murdered by men for the last decade.

Tennessee also has an ongoing problem with unintentional shootings involving children with access to negligently stored guns. In 2017, Tennessee led the nation in these types of shootings. There have been 25 of these incidents this year, resulting in the deaths of eight kids.

Approximately two-thirds of Tennessee gun deaths are suicides. Although most gun suicide victims are older men, more young people are using guns to kill themselvesIn 2017, Tennessee was 12th in the nation for youth firearm suicides.

More Tennesseans died as a result of gun violence in 2017 than any other year on record.

Firearm injuries are also a problem.  According to data from the Tennessee Department of Health, firearm injuries have increased dramatically over the last seven years. In 2010, there were 2,260 firearm injuries, a rate of 35.75 per 100,000 people.  Compare that to 2017 when there were 3,192 firearm injuries, a rate of 47.53 per 100,000 people. 

Rates per 100,000 Data from Tennessee Department of Health

Unintentional firearm injuries are on the rise in Tennessee.  In 2010, there were 941. In 2017, there were a staggering 1,836. Some firearm injuries are minor while others are life changing, resulting in paralysis or amputation, and a lifetime of care. Many victims in Tennessee lack health insurance.

If loss of life and debilitating injuries were not compelling enough, the cost of gun violence in our state is massive. The Gifford’s Law Center estimates that gun violence costs Tennesseans a staggering $6 billion every year, or $928 per resident.

Despite all of this, our legislature refuses to even acknowledge that Tennessee has a gun violence problem. Rather than strengthening gun laws, our lawmakers choose instead to loosen them year after year, refusing to listen to law enforcement and public heath researchers, choosing instead to listen to the gun lobby, whose single solution to gun violence is more guns for more people to carry more places.

The evidence is compellingStates with stronger gun laws experience fewer gun deaths. “But what about Chicago and their gun laws?” The city of Memphis has a higher murder rate than Chicago. In 2016, Chicago was 8th in the nation for homicides and Memphis was 7thIn 2018, Chicago was 12th and Memphis was 5th. Gun laws work.

Data from FBI Uniform Crime Report, 2016


Data from the FBI Uniform Crime Report, 2018

It’s been seven years since Sandy Hook. In that time, many states, including Illinois, have been intentional in implementing gun law reform, expanding background checks, passing extreme risk protection orders, strengthening domestic violence dispossession laws, and investing in evidence-based intervention programs. As we begin a new year and a new decade, Tennessee lawmakers must stand with their constituents and enact reforms that will make our schools, homes and streets safer.  The only thing we have to lose by not acting is more innocent lives.