A new report published Tuesday by the Safe Tennessee Project finds that gun deaths are on the rise in Tennessee and outpace the national average. The gun-control advocacy group says the state’s lenient gun laws could be partially to blame.
Both gun-related homicide and suicide rates are increasing in Tennessee – especially among children and teens.
Fatal gun violence went up 20% between 2007 and 2017, according to the report. The jump was even higher, 53%, among those age 19 and younger.
Beth Joslin Roth, policy director for The Safe Tennessee Project, says there’s a correlation between recent legislation and trends in gun deaths.
“What we can see clearly through this data is that, every year as we have been continuing to loosen our already lax gun laws, what we’re seeing is not in any way a decrease in the gun violence," she says. "What we’re actually seeing is an increase.”
Tennessee legislators have passed a handful of laws in the past dozen years that expand rights for gun owners. Permit holders can now bring loaded firearms into bars, store them in parked cars and carry them on public transportation, on college campuses and even in public parks and playgrounds.
Plus, it will soon be easier to get a concealed carry permit than in the past. A new law (HB1264/SB0705) taking effect in January will grant permits to gun owners even if they don't attend an in-person safety training, as long as they watch a two-hour video online.
Several recent studies have found that states with stricter gun laws see fewer deaths from firearms. And after mass shootings in Texas and Ohio earlier this month, Gov. Bill Lee said his administration would consider new measures to reduce gun violence. But it’s unclear what reforms could pass in Tennessee’s Republican-controlled assembly, which failed to pass several gun control bills last session.
Samantha Max is a Report for America corps member.