Safe Tennessee Project in the News

Three children shot in three days? Blame gun culture, crime fears, and neglect

“A long time ago, people had guns, but they weren’t a part of who they were,” said Beth Joslin Roth, executive director and policy director of Safe Tennessee Project, an advocacy organization working to bolster firearm safety and violence prevention.

“They used them as tools for hunting, and they kept them locked up, so they had a healthy respect for guns. Now people don’t respect guns.”

Safe Tennessee, however, has been trying to do its part to deter adults from leaving guns around for children to mistake as toys to tamper with or show off to their friends.

Commercial Appeal – August 22 2017

Tennessee & Memphis lead nation in kids hurt with neglected guns

“This has nothing to do with race, geography or socioeconomics,” said Beth Joslin Roth, policy director for the Safe Tennessee Project. “What it comes down to is just parents who don’t think. Ultimately, that’s what it comes down to is parents just not thinking that it will happen to them.”

Joslin Roth said it’s not uncommon for those adults to ignore gun safes, even as effective safes are available for less than $100 with key locks, combination locks, or, in some cases, RFID (radio frequency) chip or biometric entry.

“Most police departments will provide you a free gun lock if you ask, and organizations like mine will provide a free gun lock if you ask,” she said.

Tennessee lawmakers tried to pass a bill to penalize adults who leave loaded guns unlocked and accessible to children under 13. The bill died under the weight of the gun lobby’s argument that the issue is about personal responsibility, not political policy.

To be sure, gun safety is a parent’s personal responsibility, regardless of some legislature’s mandate. If you can afford a gun, you can afford to secure it–and your kids cannot afford your carelessness. Three families in three consecutive days are living–and dying—proof.

WMC Action News – August 21 2017

Memphis Continues Troubling Weekend Of Children Accidentally Shooting Themselves

The weekend string of children accidentally shooting themselves – including a four-year-old girl in the neck Friday night – continues a troubling trend in Memphis compared to the rest of the state.

According to the gun safety organization Safe Tennessee Project, nine of 20 such incidents so far this year in Tennessee happened in Memphis, seven of the 20 incidents happened since June 21st alone and three of the eight deadly accidental shootings of children in 2017 happened in Memphis.

“It’s incredibly frustrating, you know, gun violence is a very complicated issue, keeping guns out of the hands of children is not,” Safe Tennessee Project Policy Director Beth Joslin Roth said.

A recent study found in 2016, among large cities, Memphis ranked first in unintentional shootings of children.

Local Memphis – August 20 2017

Tennessee cities adjust to law letting guns in buses, hubs

But the change in Nashville’s rules doesn’t provide much comfort to some parents whose children are among the thousands who use the city bus system to get to school every day.

“There’s not going to be any way of knowing whether or not someone’s gun is ‘authorized’ or ‘unauthorized,’” said Beth Joslin Roth, a gun-control advocate whose son takes Nashville buses to school and who heads the Safe Tennessee Project.

The law, which was strongly supported by the National Rifle Association, gives cities and counties a choice: either they must use metal detectors, hire security guards and check people’s bags at many local facilities; or they must let handgun permit-holders bring in their guns.

News Channel 3 – July 12 2017

Nashville parents question safety as law allows gun owners to bring firearms on city buses

“I think a lot of parents are going to have concerns with the idea of people who are armed carrying guns on these MTA buses that are used by thousands of school children in the state,” Beth Roth with the Safety Tennessee Project says.

Roth is the policy director for the group, which supports the second amendment for responsible gun owners. She said she worries about the prospect of multiple armed people on a bus.

“Receiving a text from my son alerting me the shooting was terrifying, but honestly the only thing that could’ve made that situation worse in my opinion is a half a dozen armed individuals all drawing their guns trying to take out the bad guy,” Roth said.

Fox 13 – Wednesday July 12

East Nashville couple’s home hit by stray bullet on Fourth of July

What may be surprising to some is that celebratory gunfire is not illegal in Tennessee.

“Tourists coming to our city and being shot as a result of celebratory gunfire does not seem to be terribly concerning to our lawmakers,” said Beth Joslin Roth with the Safe Tennessee Project. “If a law was passed, I think it would create an awareness about the problem and hopefully it would act as a deterrent.”

WKRN – July 5 2017

7-Year-Old Killed By Toddler In Accidental Shooting Off Lewis Street

Officials from the Safe Tennessee Project released a statement Tuesday evening saying these kinds of shootings are not accidents, but a result of the improper storage of firearms. 

“Once again, we see the tragic consequence of negligent firearm storage,” said Beth Joslin Roth, policy director for organization. “This continues to be a problem in our country and especially here in our state. This is the fourth child killed this year as a direct result of an adult’s choice to leave a loaded gun unsecured. These shootings are not accidents. They are fully preventable tragedies. We will continue to raise awareness about safe storage and we will continue to advocate to hold adults responsible when their irresponsible actions lead to a child’s injury or death.”

News Channel 5 – June 6 2017

Calls For Tennessee Governor To Veto Controversial Gun Bill

Those places were exempted in the new bill because of the heavy security they already have, but the Safe Tennessee Project policy director says handgun permits holders could still carry weapons on public transit, unless they had metal detectors and other security measures.

She and Nashville mayor Megan Barry both said in letters to Governor Bill Haslam that the bill leaves cities with millions more in expenses, or the option of not complying, which they argued leaves cities more open to lawsuits from gun rights groups like the NRA.

“The aim of the bill is to make it cost prohibitive for cities to limit where guns can be carried and that is concerning to us,” says Beth Joslin Roth with Safe Tennessee Project. “Local law enforcement should have final say on where guns should be carried, and there should not be a financial penalty.”

Joslin Roth took her letter Tuesday to the governor’s office, where she told a staffer why she wants a veto.

“I can also speak as a parent of a child who rides an MTA bus. The idea of folks with guns riding with my son on public transportation terrifies me,” says Joslin Roth.

Local Memphis – May 23 2017

Lawmaker compares buying gun in Tennessee to purchasing lemonade, cookies

A Tennessee lawmaker is raising awareness for what he says are loopholes in the state’s background check law.

Rep. Mike Stewart said purchasing a gun in Tennessee is the same way you would buy cookies or lemonade: in cash from a private individual with no background check.

Stewart said he found and purchased a gun from within a few hours on Tuesday. Stewart said he met the seller in a parking lot to exchange.

“Although the data, facts, and statistics associated with the expansion of background checks are compelling, sometimes it takes making a dramatic statement to make an impact,” Beth Joslin Roth, policy director for The Safe Tennessee Project, said. “We are grateful to Rep. Stewart for his willingness to raise awareness about loopholes in our state’s background check law. In our experience, we find that most people have no idea how easy it is to buy a gun without a background check, no questions asked.”

Fox 17 – April 5 2017

Tennessee legislature takes aim at wide array of gun bills

One of Harris’ staunchest opponents, Beth Joslin Roth, says the same: that state lawmakers often don’t fully consider the effect of the laws they’re proposing and end up amending the laws they pass a year or two later.

She pointed to the “guns in parks” law that was passed in 2015 and blocked cities from adopting their own prohibitions on guns in parks. The bill was a clarification to one passed in 2013, after which gun-related deaths in parks across the state jumped to seven that year — more than the three years prior to the law’s passage combined, she said.

WBIR – March 22 2017

Knoxville boy’s shooting death renews push for ‘MaKayla’s Law’

Tennessee gun control advocates say they will continue their push for stiffer penalties against adult gun owners who leave loaded firearms within reach of young children after a 13-year-old Knoxville boy was charged Wednesday with first-degree murder in the shooting death of his 12-year-old brother.

“It all comes down to accessibility,” said Beth Joslin Roth, executive director of Safe Tennessee Project, a grassroots organization working to reduce gun violence. “Gun violence is a very complicated issue. … But these incidents involving children with access to loaded guns are not complicated.”

Police said the teen and his younger brother were the only two people in the family’s North Knoxville home at 2101 Needham Drive when the shooting was reported at 7:14 p.m. Tuesday.

Knoxville Police Chief David Rausch declined to offer an explanation as to how the boy gained access to the weapon and said the motive remains under investigation. Authorities have not released the name of either boy.

Before this week’s shooting, Safe Tennessee Project documented 39 incidents across the state since January 2015 involving children who injured or killed themselves or another person with a gun. The results include 14 deaths, 23 injuries to children and two injuries to adults.

Knoxville News Sentinel – December 22 2016

What’s next for Knoxville juvenile suspect: Experts say age is key

KNOXVILLE – An overnight investigation into the death of a 12-year-old leads police to arrest his brother as the alleged killer. It’s another tragedy in a region that’s no stranger to heart ache during the holidays.

Gun violence is a complicated issue, but these types of incidents are so preventable,” explained Beth Joslin Roth.

Roth is policy director for the Safe Tennessee Project, which tracks gun violence across the state. She thinks gun control laws like the proposed MaKayla’s Law, named for 8-year-old MaKayla Dyer, who was shot and killed by an 11-year-old neighbor in White Pine in October 2015, could have made a difference in this week’s shooting.

The bill would have held parents accountable for crimes that children committed with their guns.

“There is a good chance that having these types of laws on the books will serve as a deterrent, will force parents to think about how they store their guns,” she said.

WBIR – December 22 2016

Vanderbilt professor to lecture on gun violence, mental health

In recent years, a number of devastating mass shootings have sparked nationwide debate concerning guns, mental illness and what might be done to prevent similar attacks. Thursday, A&M students and staff will have a chance to learn more about various factors involved in this debate while examining potential courses of action for the nation’s future.
Jonathan Metzl, professor of sociology and psychiatry from Vanderbilt University, will present a lecture called “Changing the Terms of Debate about Gun Violence: Mental Illness, Mass Shooting, and the Politics of American Firearms.” .

Metzl said the lecture will primarily focus on how preconceived notions about mental illness have impacted the national discourse on gun violence and mass shootings.

“Most of the talk will be about the implications for the relationships between our assumptions about guns and stereotypes, particularly stereotypes of mental illness,” Metzl said. “Because a lot of times there’s a big push to push for more weapons because of mental illness, so I’ll be — hopefully — debunking that stereotype, and asking the audience to think a bit more deeply about the relationships between guns and mental illness.”

The Batt – December 2 2016

Senator working to create bill for ‘gun violence restraining order’

A Mid-South lawmaker wants to give people a tool he believes will help save lives.

Tennessee Senator Lee Harris said there is a gap in the laws. Many victims come to Regional Medical Center with wounds and Harris is trying to change that by reducing gun violence. He is aiming at domestic violence and those who pose a danger to the ones around them.

The new tool Harris is proposing gives new hope for those living in domestic violence situations

“It felt like rock bottom,” domestic violence survivor Jordan Howard said. “I didn’t care if I had to sleep on the street, I didn’t care what I had to do, as long as I wasn’t living like that.”
Howard suffered years of abuse, physically as well as emotional and verbal abuse.
Howard said she spent seven years married to a man who abused her.

“My abuser actually threatened to shoot my three pets because he knew that would hurt me more than anything else,” Howard said.
That’s why she is now working as an advocate for domestic violence victims and supports the new tool Harris is proposing.

“We should do something about those folks who are mentally ill and their access to weapons and other things that can cause violence or harm to others,” Harris said.
Harris is working with Safe Tennessee Project to soon propose a bill that would allow a judge to issue something similar to a gun violence restraining order.

It would allow family members and law enforcement officials to file against people who pose an immediate threat, but that person has to be known to the victim.

“Give them a recourse. They can go to court and ask a judge to temporarily, just for a limited period of time, take those weapons out of the house,” Harris said.
Howard said although her abuser didn’t have a gun, she said this is a necessary step.

WBRC – December 1 2016

McMinn Co Teen Dies in Accidental Shooting

According to the Safe Tennessee Project’s database of unintentional shootings this year, this is the 18th incident where a child has injured or killed someone due to access to an unsecured firearm.

Officials with the Safe Tennessee Project say Tennessee now ranks fourth in the nation for these types of accidental shootings. According to their records, 39 incidents since January have injured 23 children, 2 adults and killed 14 others.

WRCBTV – November 28, 2016

Adult Gun Owners Must Protect Children’s Lives

The report found Tennessee and other Southern states are among those with the highest per capita rates of accidental shootings involving minors.

According to the Safe Tennessee Project, an advocacy group that seeks to reduce gun violence, as of Oct. 15 there have been 27 unintentional shootings involving minors statewide this year. Seven children have died. The group tracks news reports to compile its numbers.

Knoxville News Sentinel – October 20, 2016

Memphis First in Accidental Child Shootings

Beth Joslin-Roth is the policy director for the Safe Tennessee Project, which calls itself a “grassroots organization dedicated to addressing the epidemic of gun-related injuries and gun violence in Tennessee.” She understands the reluctance to prosecute parents in these cases, but still argues for it.

“People say to us, ‘Why do you want to cause more pain to this grieving family? They’ve already suffered this terrible loss,’” she said. “I understand that, but by the same token, if I make a decision to drink and drive with my children in the car, and have an accident and one of my children is killed, no one is going to feel sorry for me. People are going to say, ‘You made a bad choice, and your child died for it.’ That’s how we feel about these incidents.”

Tennessean – October 14, 2016

New group tackles children’s firearm safety

According to a new analysis by the Associated Press and USA Today, a child dies in an accidental shooting every other day in the U.S. That suggests accidental shootings are much more common than previously thought, but a new group is hoping to do something about that.

Last year, out of all 50 states, Missouri had the highest number of toddlers pulling the trigger.

“So here we make nationwide headlines and yet the legislature chooses to do nothing,” said Missouri State Rep. Stacey Newman (D) – St. Louis County.

Newman has introduced legislation that would hold adults responsible when kids shoot themselves or others, but to no avail.

“My bill last year, HB2500, didn’t even get a hearing,” she said.

That’s why she’s teaming up with Beth Joslin Roth, policy director of Safe Tennessee Project. Together, they formed the Children’s Firearm Safety Alliance. It involves doctors, law enforcement, prosecutors, and other lawmakers. The group had an official launch event at Washington University on Friday.

KSDK – Oct 14 2016

When Kids Pull the Trigger, Who is Responsible? Not Gun Owners, the NRA Says

Feature length investigative report on MaKayla’s Law and the NRA’s role in defeating it.

Newsweek – October 10, 2016

Concerts held nationwide to raise awareness about gun violence

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – One man was killed and another was left injured after a shooting at a night club early Sunday morning. That same day, a 2 year old shot a 12 year old in Donelson.

For Eliot Bronson, it’s disturbing news, but news he says he continues to hear.
“I think every other day we hear about a tragedy and we are all horrified by it,” said Bronson.

Beth Joslin Roth with Safe Tennessee Project is on the same page, and that’s why she helped organize Concert
Across America to End Gun Violence.

“The event is to raise awareness around this issue and the issue of the 33,000 Americans who lose their life every year to gun violence,” explained Roth. “We are just advocates for policies that will help us reduce those numbers.”

Concert Across America to End Gun Violence was held Sunday and featured 350 events nationwide.

WKRN – Sept 25 2016

 A Nashville 3-Year-Old Is Tennessee’s Latest Accidental Shooting Victim

Tennessee is on pace for a large increase in accidental shootings this year, according to the Safe Tennessee Project. The group tracks firearm incidents like the one Tuesday in Nashville in which a 3-year-old injured himself.

Nashville police said the boy shot himself in the wrist with a pistol his 24-year-old father carries as a security guard. The two had just gotten home and put down their backpacks, when the boy pulled the .40-caliber gun out of his dad’s bag and fired once.

The father quickly rushed the boy toward the hospital before encountering a Metro officer who called an ambulance to finish the trip.  

Within hours, Beth Joslin Roth, of the Safe Tennessee Project, performed a sobering task — she logged these particulars into her accidental shootings database.

Nashville Public Radio – Sep 1 2016

Group Pushes For Gun Safety Training With Increase Of Accidental Shootings

A volunteer group advocating gun safety said the number of accidental shootings in Tennessee has increased, leaving more people both injured and killed.

According to the Safe Tennessee Project, there have been 50 accidental gun injuries so far this year compared to just 20 this time last year.

The group hopes there will be bigger pushes for more gun owner education, to keep guns out of the hands of curious kids.

“What’s concerning to me is adults being careless — adults making a choice to not store their guns responsibly,” said Beth Joplin Roth with Safe Tennessee Project.

News Channel 5 – Sep 1 2016

Accidental shootings surge in Tennessee

Tuesday night’s incident where a 3-year-old boy shot himself in the hand is the just the latest example of what experts are calling a “significant and concerning” problem: accidental shootings.

At this time last year, there were 32 accidental shootings of children and adults in Tennessee.

As of August 2016, there have been 62.

According to the Safe Tennessee Project, the common denominator is carelessness.

“Carelessness on the part of the adult who forgets to check the chamber to make sure there isn’t a bullet in it before he or she cleans a gun. Carelessness when an adult doesn’t carry a gun holstered properly and it falls out of their pocket and discharges and shoots them or a bystander. And certainly carelessness on the part of the adult who chooses to leave a loaded firearm where a child can find it,” said Beth Joslin Roth, policy director of the Safe Tennessee Project.

WSMV – Sep 1 2016

Police: 3-year-old boy shoots himself in hand with father’s gun

Metro police say a 3-year-old boy shot himself in the wrist after getting a hold of his dad’s gun Tuesday evening.

The Safe Tennessee Project said this is the 16th child shot accidentally so far this year.

News 10 – Aug 31 2016

Safe Tennessee Project: Number of accidental shootings has already surpassed all of 2015

Following the accidental shooting of a 3-year-old Nashville boy on Tuesday, the Safe Tennessee Project says accidental shootings in the state this year is “particularly startling.”

In a release from STP, the number of adult-involved accidental shootings by the end of August last year was 14 total. This year, that total is 39 accidental shootings involving adults. According to STP, 23 accidental shootings have involved children in 2016, with seven death

The sum of these shootings (62), also reflects a sharp rise compared 2015 totals. In all of last year, there was a total of 51 accidental shootings in Tennessee.

Safe Tennessee Project policy director Joslin Roth says “We already knew we had a problem with these types of shootings, and it’s only getting worse.”

Fox 17 – Aug 31 2016

Guns in Donald Trump’s America

Editorial by Dr. Jonathan Metzl

The furor that ensued after the tweet raised an important question: How would Trump’s gun policies affect life for communities of color in cities like Chicago?

News Republic – Aug 30 2016

MorningLine: Gun Safety & Policies (VIDEO)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Beth Joslin Roth, Policy Director of the Safe Tennessee Project discusses Gun Safety & Policies.

News Channel 5 – Aug 17 2016

Dozens of children shot in Tennessee this year

Timea’s shooting death is the latest in a series of shootings involving children — both accidental and criminal — across Tennessee this year.

In addition to the nine children who died from gunfire, at least 36 children have been injured by guns in the state this year, according to data from the Gun Violence Archive analyzed by the Safe Tennessee Project, a nonprofit group that tracks gun violence.

Fifteen injured children were victims of unintentional shootings, according to the Safe Tennessee Project.

The Tennessean – Aug 9 2016

Local gun activists hope Washington pays attention

As Washington tries to figure out any new gun legislation in the wake of the Orlando shootings, those on both sides are hoping lawmakers pay attention to them.

Beth Joslin Roth of the Safe Tennessee Project says she was “so moved at what was happening” with the House sit-in, which just happened to come to an end while talking with News 2.

The Senate was about to take up the bill from Sen. Susan Collins which dealt primarily with keeping those on the no-fly list from purchasing a handgun.

“I think that the Senate seeing what their colleagues in the House were doing motivated them to go into the chambers and push,” added Roth

WKRN – Jun 23 2016

Academy Sports pulls AR-15 style rifles from display cases

Others disagree. Beth Joslin Roth, policy director for the Safe Tennessee Project, a nonprofit aimed at deterring gun violence in the state, said that while she appreciates Academy’s gesture, it doesn’t really accomplish anything.

“I appreciate them trying to do something to be sensitive to the families of the victims, but it seems like a half measure,” Roth said. “Just because they’re out of sight won’t deter people from buying them. There’s no reason to have military-style weapons in the hands of the civilians.”

The Tennessean – Jun 15 2016

Organization uses campaign to teach parents about gun safety

The Safe Tennessee Project, which tracks accidental shootings in Tennessee, says the death of a three-year-old in Clarksville is the 13th such accident this year.

Beth Joslin Roth, Policy Director for the Safe Tennessee Project, says, “The shooting in Clarksville yesterday was the 13th incident of a child gaining access to a loaded firearm, discharging it, and injuring or killing themselves or someone else. It was the third fatality so far this year.”

Roth says parents should be asking adults and other parents if there are unlocked guns in the homes or places where their children visit.

“It’s so important for parents to just ask that simple question: Do you have unlocked firearms in your arms in your home?”

“This is your child’s life you’re talking about. It’s not in any way making a value judgement on a person if they have a guns,” explained Roth. “It’s perfectly fine to have guns. Responsible gun owners keep their guns locked up.”

WKRN – July 2 2016

Child Accidentally Shoots Self in Clarksville, First Death Since Makayla’s Law Voted Down

Beth Joslin Roth says, “There are no repercussions for the parent or the gun owner, so they get their gun back . There are still children in the home.”

Beth Joslin Roth is with Safe Tennessee Project.

Roth says, the Clarksville shooting is the 7th accident involving a child and first fatality since legislators voted down Makayla’s Law in March.

The bill would hold adult gun owners responsible if anyone under 13 accessed a loaded gun, fired it and hurt or killed someone.

FOX 17 – July 2 2016

Rally Held Ahead of Law Allowing Guns On Campuses

The Safe Tennessee Project put the rally together, ahead of the law’s enactment that will allow full time public university employees to carry registered guns on campus.

While some onlookers held a different view of gun control, the Safe Tennessee Project said laws like the one that takes effect tomorrow will make Tennesseans less safe.

“As we continue to log more accidental shootings, our legislators here in Tennessee continue to expand where people can carry guns, and that does not make a lot of sense to me,” said Beth Joslin Roth with the Safe Tennessee Project.

News Channel 5 – June 29 2016

ER doctors see increase in gunshot victims over past year

The Safe Tennessee Project works to educate Tennesseans about gun violence and accidental shootings.

The organization was instrumental in writing MaKayla’s Law, which was defeated in the Tennessee General Assembly this year.

MaKayla’s Law would hold gun owners responsible if a child gained access to their weapon and then killed themselves or someone else.

“What we see with the gun violence is it continuing to happen,” Executive Director of the Safe Tennessee Project Beth Joslin Roth said. “What is especially troubling for people like me and my organization is the preventable forms of gun violence.”

WKRN – Jun 1 2016

41 accidental shootings reported in Tennessee so far in 2016

From a 2-year-old shooting herself earlier this month, to a boy accidentally shooting his dad in Rutherford County on Thursday, the circumstances vary, but Roth says “the common denominator in all these shootings is carelessness with firearms. We began to notice the frequency of unintentional shootings here in Tennessee. With the shooting this afternoon we’ve surpassed the total number of accidental shootings of adults in all of 2015.”

There’s 41 accidental shootings in the state to date, compared to a total of 51 in all of last year.

Safe Tennessee Project tracks all unintentional shootings in the state with a tracker and fully searchable database.

“Terribly sad that we have to have it,” Roth said. “It’s gut wrenching, we just want to educate people on all levels about gun safety. A gun should always be treated as if it’s loaded. “

FOX 17 – May 26 2016

Most mass shooters aren’t mentally ill. So why push better treatment as the answer?

Jonathan Metzl, a Vanderbilt University professor who studies the history of mental illness, has written that “insanity becomes the only politically sane place to discuss gun control.”

Washington Post – May 19

Nashville woman leading effort for ‘common sense’ gun laws

“We have found responsible gun owners do understand the importance of safe storage and support us in our efforts to get MaKayla’s Law passed,” Roth said.

MaKayla’s Law is named after 8-year-old MaKayla Dyer. She was killed by an 11-year-old neighbor with his father’s shotgun.

The bill would have made it a crime to leave a loaded gun accessible to a child. It was defeated in the Tennessee Legislature.

“We felt like it was a good law,” Roth said.

The Safe Tennessee Project championed the bill on Capitol Hill.

WSMV – May 17, 2016

Smyrna toddler recovering after accidental shooting

These are preventable tragedies. They should not keep happening,” said Beth Roth with Safe Tennessee Project.

According to Safe Tennessee Project, the state is ranked ninth in the nation for accidental shootings. It is also ninth in the nation for death by firearm, and third for shootings in or near a school, college or university.

This year alone there have been nine reported accidental child shootings. Two have been fatal.

The Safe Tennessee Project said they hope by presenting these numbers to lawmakers, they can help make better child access prevention laws, known as CAP laws.

“We were recently flagged as one of seven states with a disproportionate number of accidental shooting,” Roth said. “And all seven of those states, including Tennessee, lacked meaningful child access prevention laws.”

WSMV – May 9, 2016

Smyrna Toddler is 9th Child Accidentally Shot in State This Year

“Another child with access to a loaded gun leads to yet another 100% preventable tragedy, ” said Beth Joslin Roth, policy director of The Safe Tennessee Project. “This little girl was only 2-years-old- a baby! When we brought this issue to legislators, they were dismissive of our concerns. They said parents just need to tell kids not touch guns. Perhaps they’ve not spent time with toddlers. Or tweens or teens, for that matter. If you’re going to have firearms in a home with children, the responsibility to keep kids from hurting themselves with the gun is solely on the parents. And, if their decision to irresponsibly store their gun leads to a child being injured or killed, they need to held accountable. Period.”

WZTV – May 7, 2016

Would safe storage laws help prevent accidental shootings?

“It’s not our objective to throw a bunch of parents in jail,” said Safe Tennessee’s policy director Beth Joslyn Roth. “It’s to create a deterrent, much the same way drunk driving laws create a deterrent.”

According to, 14 states plus the District of Columbia have safe storage laws in place. In those states, the site says accidental shootings have dropped.

“It’s the same thing we’re trying to do with MaKayla’s law,” said Roth, who will bring push for the law next year. “We’re trying to reduce the number of children who are injured and killed in these very preventable tragedies.”

WKRN – May 2, 2016

Haslam allows controversial guns on campus bill to become law

Beth Joslin Roth, policy director of Safe Tennessee Project and who monitored the bill through the legislative process, said lawmakers should have listened to campus police chiefs who spoke against the bill in committees.

“According to campus police chiefs, not only will this new law make campuses less safe, it will also require them to scrap their FBI training protocol when it comes to responding to an active shooter situation.  Additionally, numerous faculty members have indicated they will resign over this. But, in our state, the gun lobby is more influential than law enforcement and the wishes of the NRA trump the concerns of our public colleges and universities,” Roth said.

The Tennessean – May 2, 2016

Senate approves bill to allow guns on college campuses

Beth Joslin Roth, policy director for Safe Tennessee Project, questioned lawmakers’ decision, noting that their action comes despite significant opposition from law enforcement.

“At the very least, university and college administration in conjunction with their campus police chiefs should be the ones deciding whether or not they allow guns on their individual school’s campus,” she said in a statement. “The fact that our legislators outright reject the recommendation of law enforcement and ridicule the concerns of administrators, faculty, and students clearly demonstrates that our legislature’s loyalty lies with the NRA, and not with the Tennesseans who will be affected by this bill.”

The Tennessean – April 19, 2016

Man with gun at Bellevue tests faith in laws of God, man

He’s not the only one. Like God, guns are everywhere, even in church — whether you know it or not.

“My guess would be that most people would assume that churches are automatically ‘gun-free.’ They are not,” said Beth Joslin Roth, policy director of the Safe Tennessee Project in Nashville.

“I’d also guess that the last thing many churches would like to do is have a huge debate over whether or not to allow people to carry in their place of worship.”

The Commercial Appeal – March 28, 2016

Tennessee lawmaker buys gun easily, brings it to the legislature

In addition to Stewart, Beth Joslin Roth, the policy director for the Safe Tennessee Project, an organization advocating against easing gun laws, told the committee that she obtained a weapon at a gun show without ever having to show identification or undergo a background check.

The Tennessean – March 23, 2016

After measure fails in House panel, proponents vow to press Tennessee gun safety bill next year

Beth Joslin Roth with the Safe Tennessee Project, which backed the bill, said despite the bill having support from “responsible gun owners” and others, the panel members “collectively shrugged their shoulders” and voted no.

Calling it “shameful,” Roth said “despite the setback, we do intend to bring the bill next year, and we will continue to raise awareness about this important issue.”

She said Tennessee, which ranks ninth nationally in accidental gun deaths, in the last 15 months has lost 12 children.

The Chattanooga Free Press – March 23, 2016

When Kids Share a Car with a Gun, It Can Make for a Deadly Mix

“It’s ironic to me that there are all of these common-sense laws surrounding car safety, but that’s not the case when it comes to the storage of firearms in cars,” [Metzl] says. “Because people are so worried about needing constant access to their firearms, the situation we’re creating is far more dangerous than the threat of being attacked by a stranger.”

The safety precautions that govern gun safety and storage at home “don’t seem to apply in cars,” says Metzl, who is also research director at the Safe Tennessee Project. One reason for the blind spot, he theorizes, could be that cars are a method of transport that people don’t imagine they’ll be sitting in long enough to necessitate safe storage.

The Trace – March 10, 2016

Are Looser Gun Laws Changing the Social Fabric of Missouri?

Safe Tennessee Project Research Director Dr. Jonathan Metzl penned this thought provoking article regarding how easier access to guns and expanded carry laws affect social interaction.  From The Conversation, an independent source of news and views from the academic and research community.

The Conversation – March 10, 2016

MaKayla’s Law in The News

There have been many news stories written and broadcast about MaKayla’s Law, legislation brought by the Safe Tennessee Project to strengthen our state’s child access prevention laws.  All the news related to MaKayla’s Law can be found by clicking the link below:

#MaKaylasLaw #SafeStorageSavesLives

Lawmakers Discuss Allowing Guns at Capitol Complex

“Contrary to the myths we hear at Legislative Plaza, allowing more guns where they were previously prohibited will only increase the likelihood of unintentional shootings,” said Beth Joslin Roth, executive director of the Safe Tennessee Project. “That’s why the Tennessee Highway Patrol has repeatedly opposed these efforts, and will likely still oppose guns in the Capitol.

“It’s only February, and there have already been 10 unintentional shootings in Tennessee, resulting in the deaths of two children and one adult. Encouraging people to bring their guns to crowded hallways of the plaza poses an unnecessary risk to the lives of legislators, staff and the public.”

The Tennessean – February 11, 2016

Mental Health Reform Will Not Reduce US Gun Violence, Experts Say

But while few people would disagree with the need for mental health reform, scientists who study gun violence say it won’t make much of a dent in the number of homicides and attempted homicides committed with firearms. That’s because although mass shooters are likely to be mentally ill (but not necessarily diagnosed), high-profile mass shootings represent only a small fraction of US gun violence, the vast majority of which is committed by people who are not mentally ill. In addition, most people with mental illness are not violent; they are far more likely to be the victims than the perpetrators of shootings.

“There’s no real psychiatric diagnosis that psychiatrists can use to predict which patient is going to commit a violent act and which isn’t,” he said. By blaming gun violence on mental illness, Metzl said, “we lose the sense of the larger contextual factors that surround the violence,” such as drinking, arguing with a spouse or neighbor, having access to firearms, and having a history of violence, all of which are statistically correlated with gun violence but not linked to mental health disorders.

As far as Metzl is concerned, looking to mental health reform to lower the US rate of gun homicides sidesteps the real issue. “We have a major problem with gun violence in this country,” he said. “When we say it’s all a problem of mental illness, that’s really a diversionary tactic” to shift discussion away from the need for stronger gun control laws.

The Journal of American Medicine – January 12, 2016

OpenLine: Executive Actions & Gun Control

Ben Hall is joined by Beth Joslin Roth from The Safe Tennessee Project to discuss gun control and President Obama’s recent executive actions concerning gun control.

WTVF Open Line – January 13, 2016

Researchers Say Mental Illness Isn’t Only Factor Linked to Gun Violence

“Research rather convincingly shows that gun violence committed by persons diagnosed with mental illness is really a minute fraction of gun violence in this country,” Jonathan Metzl, a psychiatrist and director of the Center for Medicine, Health and Society at Vanderbilt University, said in a phone interview Wednesday. “I think that focusing just on mental illness, which is a position that, for example, the NRA often takes and many Republican lawmakers, is to my mind pretty much a red herring.”

“It’s not like we can draw a direct line at all between the diagnosis of mental illness and somebody’s propensity to commit violent violence, and in fact psychiatrists are very, very poor predictors of which one of their patients is going to commit violent acts for that reason,” Metzl said in the interview.

Instead, his research found that better predictors of gun violence include the following: a history of violence, abuse alcohol or drugs, lack of firearm training, and relationship stress.

“These are all factors that aren’t really linked to mental illness per se, and mental illness certainly can play a role in them but it’s really kind of limiting guns at the times of these everyday issues are at play,” Metzl said.

Morning Consult – January 13, 2016

Bill Would Require Private Schools to Implement Gun Carry Policy

Last year, Bell proposed a bill to allow faculty to carry guns on private college campuses. It was met with strong opposition by some.

University of Tennessee President Joe DiPietro issued a statement saying the university “opposes allowing anyone other than law enforcement officers to carry guns while on campus. The current law works. There is no need to change it.”

Beth Roth, policy director with Safe TN Project, and other safety advocates disagree with the latest legislation.

“Somebody who has taken an eight-hour class to be a permit holder, I don’t know that I’m ready to trust them with the life of my child,” Roth said. “Tennessee is ninth in the nation for accidental shootings. Every year, lots of Tennessee gun owners, some of whom are permit holders, have accidents with their guns.”

WSMV – January 12, 2016

Constitutional Rights Behind Gun Reform

This week President Barack Obama announced several executive actions designed to further regulate access to guns. Executive Director at the Center for Constitutional Rights, Vince Warren, and the Research Director at the Safe Tennessee Project, Dr. Jonathan Metzel, discuss President Obama’s recent actions.

MSNBC – The Melissa Harris Perry Show – January 9, 2015

Obama Takes Aim at the Gun Lobby

As Obama noted in his speech, the $500 million for mental health – a budget item that may need congressional approval – can do a lot to prevent gun deaths, but not as much to stop gun-related murders, says psychiatry professor Jonathan Metzl, director of the Center for Medicine, Health, and Society at Vanderbilt University.

“I’m hopeful that the way this is going to play out, it’s going to make a dent in gun suicide,” Metzl says. But while media reports have focused on the stability or mental health of notorious mass shooters, such as James Holmes, convicted of a 2012 shooting in a Colorado movie theater, “persons diagnosed with serious mental illness are relatively unlikely to go commit random acts of violence,” he adds.

Metzl said there is a concern among psychiatrists that mentally ill people could be stigmatized, depending on how the background checks are done. But “if the question of mental illness is raised in the context of broader gun control, it’s far more likely to be effective,” he says.

US News & World Report – January 5, 2016

Tennessee Republicans Criticize Obama Gun Action

Beth Joslin Roth, policy director for the Safe Tennessee Project, a nonprofit organization dedicated to reducing gun violence pointed out that Americans are looking for leadership on the issue.

“The president’s decision to clarify and enforce the law requiring more gun sellers to conduct background checks will be a real setback for criminals and traffickers who have exploited these loopholes for too long,” Roth said.

The Tennessean – January 5, 2015

Sheriff Advises Citizens to Arm Themselves; Advocates Say More Education Needed 

Opponents argue that the prospect of countless armed citizens is more frightening than an unknown terror attack.

“I do feel like it’s stirring fear where it doesn’t need to be,” said Beth Joslin Roth with Safe Tennessee Project.

Safe Tennessee Project works to prevent gun violence.

Roth said one eight-hour class is not nearly enough to learn how to properly handle a firearm, especially in a life-or-death situation.

She said accidental shootings pose a far greater risk.

“Terrorism is something we should be mindful of, but I don’t think it’s the imminent threat that the news stories I see come across my desk multiple times every day are,” Roth said.

WSMV – December 28, 2015

Mass Shootings are Distracting from the Real Danger of Guns in America

“In many ways, these events are a red herring,” says Jonathan Metzl, a professor of sociology and psychiatry at Vanderbilt who has published a paper in the American Journal of Public Health on why scholars focus too much on mass shootings.

The paper by Metzl and colleague Kenneth MacLeish argues that “many scholars who study violence prevention hold that mass shootings occur too infrequently to allow for statistical modeling, and as such serve as poor jumping-off points for effective public health interventions.”

The Washington Post – December 8, 2015

How We Process Mass Shootings

Safe Tennessee Project Director of Research Dr. Jonathan Metzl discusses the San Bernardino mass shooting and how people come to terms with such attacks and grapple with biases as they search for an explanation.

WBUR – Boston NPR News – December 3, 2015

Non-partisan Gun Violence Prevention Group Calls for Tougher Laws, More Awareness

Following the tragic unintentional shooting of a 5-year-old by an older sibling who was playing with their father’s loaded gun, NewsChannel 5 interviewed Safe Tennessee Project Policy Director Beth Joslin Roth.

“Honestly, this is one example of many,” Roth said.  “There are ways to be responsible and keep the guns away from children.”

News Channel 5 – November 23, 2015

20 Children Accidentally Shot in Tennessee This Year; 8 Killed

Safe Tennessee Project Policy Director Beth Joslin Roth interviewed by News 2 about the latest accidental shooting of a Tennessee child and the need for tougher gun storage laws and safe storage education.

“That’s hard to wrap your mind around,” said Beth Joslin Roth with the Safe Tennessee Project. “Eight children who are no longer here because someone was irresponsible with a gun.”

News 2 / WKRN – November 23, 2015

The Psychological Effect of Terrorism and Violence

Safe Tennessee Project Director of Research Dr. Jonathan Metzl discusses the psychological effects of terrorism and violence on The Melissa Harris Perry show on MSNBC.

MSNBC – The Melissa Harris Perry Show – November 21, 2015

Mass shootings and U.S. Gun Ownership

Gun violence and mental illness expert Dr. Jonathan Metzl weighs in on the latest mass shooting in the U.S. and the national debate on gun ownership that has been re-opened.

 CTVNewsChannel (Canada) October 2, 2015

Copy Cat Phenomenon Part of Mass Shootings

Safe Tennessee Project Director of Research Dr. Jonathan Metzl interviewed by KSRO morning news in Sonoma County, CA.

KSRO Morning News October 2, 2015

Everyone Blames Mental Illness for Mass Shootings. But What if That’s Wrong?

It seems like there’s one thing everyone agrees on after a mass shooting: The shooter must have been mentally ill. President Barack Obama said as much in his reaction to the Umpqua Community College shooting on Thursday: “We don’t yet know why this individual did what he did, and it’s fair to say that anybody who does this has a sickness in their minds, regardless of what they think their motivations may be.”

But what if the assumption is wrong, or at least misses the nuance of the issue?

Jonathan Metzl, a professor of psychiatry, sociology, and medicine, health, and society at Vanderbilt University, argues that mental illness is often a scapegoat that lets policymakers and the public ignore bigger, more complicated contributors to gun violence

Vox October 2, 2015

Audit: Tennessee’s Courts Lag on Law Keeping Guns from Mentally Ill

NASHVILLE — Dangerous holes exist in a Tennessee process that is supposed to keep both guns and state handgun-carry permits out of the hands of people declared mentally ill, according to a new state comptroller audit.

Beth Joslin Roth with the Safe Tennessee Project, which advocates for stronger gun laws, said, “To learn that an audit revealed that Tennessee Court System management had not fully complied with state laws regarding mental health and firearms reporting is inexcusable — and terrifying.”

Times Free Press August 6, 2015

Haslam Says Guns-in-Parks Bill Worth Reviewing for Clarity

MT. JULIET, Tenn. (AP) – Tennessee lawmakers should consider reviewing a new law that allows handgun carry permit holders to bring firearms to parks, playgrounds and sports fields following a key opinion from the state’s attorney general, Gov. Bill Haslam said Monday.

Beth Joslin Roth, policy director for the Safe Tennessee Project, said there have been at least 20 accidental shootings in Tennessee so far this year and that there’s a greater “possibility of these kinds of accidental shootings happening in extremely crowded situations such as an outdoor concert venue or festival.”

The Washington Times August 3, 2015

Attorney General: Concerts, Festivals Can’t Ban Guns in Public Parks

 NASHVILLE — A state attorney general’s opinion about Tennessee’s new guns-in-parks law says city and county governments and third-party contractors who run such events as concerts and festivals in public parks cannot ban handgun-carry permit holders from going armed into those events.

Roth, who opposed the bill’s passage in April, said even an accidental shooting at a large-scale event is concerning.

“Those who supported this bill might say there would never be an incident of an inebriated person with a gun accidentally dropping and firing it during a Live on the Green concert in Nashville or during the Boomsday celebration in Knoxville, but they also might not think that a guy would shoot himself as he adjusted a gun in his waistband or that a person would reach for a tissue in his pocket and end up shooting themselves instead,” Roth said.

“We feel that the only individuals properly trained to handle an active shooting situation in a crowded and possibly dark area are trained law enforcement officers. The idea of multiple shooters in a chaotic scene in a public park is extremely concerning. We believe Tennessee families should be able to enjoy music and entertainment in our cities’ parks without worrying about being a victim of one of the many accidental shootings that happen in our state every year.”

Knoxville News Sentinel July 31, 2015

TN’s New Guns-in-Parks Law Sets up ‘Disaster’ for Festivals like Riverbend, Officials Warn

NASHVILLE — A state senator, a former police chief and head of a gun-safety group warned today that Tennessee’s new guns-in-public parks law will set up big-crowd events like Chattanooga’s Riverbend Festival for huge safety problems with a volatile mix of firearms, alcohol and lots of people.

Beth Joslin Roth, policy director for The Safe Tennessee Project, which opposed the guns-in-parks law, said there are dangers even if someone has no intent to shoot anyone through accidental gun discharges.

She cited cases, including a man in McMinnville, she said, who reached for a handerchief and wound up shooting himself in the leg with the handgun he was carrying. Roth said Tennessee ranks 9th nationally in the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention statistics on accidental gun shootings.

Times Free Press July 31, 2015

House-Senate Panel: No Guns in Capitol Complex

NASHVILLE — Guns in the statehouse are out but guns in parks adjacent to schools are in under a compromise plan on the guns-in-parks bill recommended Tuesday by a House-Senate conference committee.

“I’m very concerned about it,” said Beth Joslin Roth of Nashville, who is following the bill as founder of Safe Tennessee Project. “I think there is still a lot of confusion about this bill. I think it’s interesting that Sen. Yarbro’s amendment to allow guns in the Capitol got removed without any discussion.

“I’m a mom. I have kids who go to schools that use parks adjacent to the schools where my children attend and I think there’s still a lot of ambiguity about how this bill is going to be applied,” she said. “There were 1,541 Tennessee handgun-carry permits suspended or revoked by the state in 2014. Those are things that factor into my feelings about this bill and about people with guns being near my children while they’re at school.”

Knoxville News Sentinel April 14, 2015

City: Guns-in-Parks Bill Strips Local Control

The state House of Representatives voted Monday to remove the Tennessee Capitol from a bill to expand the areas where people with handgun carry permits can be armed, a move supported by Republican Gov. Bill Haslam.

Beth Roth of Nashville was among several people who came to the Capitol on Monday to oppose the guns-in-parks proposal. Roth said she agrees with the governor’s concerns because the school her sixth-grade son attends uses an adjacent park for recess and after-school activities. She also said the right to ban guns in such places should stay with local governments.

“I feel like the cities absolutely should be the ones deciding what makes sense for those cities,” Roth said. “It’s definitely an example of big government trying to come and take control away from local communities, and that concerns me.”

The Tullahoma News April 7, 2015

Special Committee Strips Capitol Complex from Gun Bill

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – It took Tennessee lawmakers about an hour to come up with a tentative compromise today on the controversial guns in parks bill, but the final details are still being officially written and subject to approval of both the House and Senate.

Senate sponsor John Stevens said the compromise intentionally did not say what “immediate vicinity” meant because it would create what supporters did not want– a specific “gun-free zone.”

Opponent Beth Joslin Roth of the Safe Tennessee Project called the compromise “confusing.”

WATE April 4, 2015

House Subcommittees to Wrap Up Work this Week

NASHVILLE — Most state House subcommittees plan to hold their final meetings of the 2015 session this week, which means that hundreds of bills pending in the panels will either advance to the next step or quietly die.

The Safe Tennessee Project, a coalition advocating for gun control, questioned whether political games are behind the bill’s revival, Post Politics says.

“What is the point of the committee even taking any initial action on a bill if the bill sponsors and the lobbyists pushing the bill force them to hear it again?” asked Beth Joslin Roth, policy director of the project.

Knoxville News Sentinel March 22, 2015

House Bill 535 Could Eliminate Gun Permits in Tennessee

CHATTANOOGA, Tennessee (WDEF) –  If a Tennessee state representative gets his way, gun permits for concealed or open carry would no longer be required.

Safe Tennessee Project Policy Director Beth Joslin Roth is worried that HB-535 will ultimately lead to an innocent person getting hurt or killed.

“Someone could be walking around with a gun on them in a public place and they may or may not have ever had any type training on how to use the gun or how to handle the gun in a high stress situation,” Roth said.

WDEF wanted to know why Representative Womick would endorse a bill that even some gun rights advocates don’t agree with. No one from his office was available.

“They feel they have a constitutional right to carry a gun and that any type of permitting process is an infringement of that right,” Roth said.

WDEF March 20, 2015

Commentary: Businesses Have Right to Keep Guns Out

“We are grateful for the leadership shown by Governor Bill Haslam,” said Beth Joslin Roth, Policy Director for The Safe Tennessee Project. “Standing up for the rights of cities and businesses to decide whether or not they wish to allow guns is the right thing for Tennessee’s citizens and employers. He has demonstrated that when it comes to keeping Tennesseans safe, he is willing to stand up to the gun lobby.”

The Hartsville Vidette – Editorial – March 18, 2015

TN Lawmakers Weigh Numerous Firearm Bills

 NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) –  Tennessee lawmakers are focused on gun legislation and Second Amendment rights on Capitol Hill this week.

“A lot of these bills, we find them to be unnecessary, and unneeded and an invitation to potential tragedy,” said Beth Joslin Roth with the Safe Tennessee Project. “Exploding targets, that seems like an accident waiting to happen.”

WSMV March 10, 2015

Handgun Permits Rise as Legislators Try to Ease Laws

 Nashvile – In 2008, roughly one out of 32 Tennesseans had a valid handgun permit. Now, it’s nearly one out of 13.

As the number of valid gun permits in Tennessee prepares to exceed half a million — 300,000 of which are new since 2008 — Tennessee lawmakers continue to push to ease restrictions on where and when Tennesseans can pack heat.

There is “undoubtedly” a connection between a state’s gun laws and firearms related deaths, argues Beth Joslin Roth of the Safe Tennessee Project, an organization advocating against easing gun laws. She points to several studies from the Harvard Injury Research Center that argue in states with more guns there are more accidental shootings and homicides.

Only eight other states had higher rates of death through injury by firearm than Tennessee in 2013, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Roth said the CDC currently ranks Tennessee 12th in accidental shootings.

“Some accidents happen when an adult who should know better, including in some cases law enforcement, drops a gun or forgets that a gun is loaded,” Roth said in a statement.

“We understand that gun-related accidents happen. We just want to minimize the chance that they’re happening in public places, especially places where children play and learn, such as parks, playgrounds and school campuses.”

The Tennessean March 9, 2015