Letter to the Editor - August 2023

It’s very easy to focus on language as a distraction, especially when the data or truth is not in your favor. And certainly, that is how we have seen many social campaigns succeed. Mention “Permit-less handgun carry with no training or background checks” and you probably won’t get far. But the second you say, “Constitutional Carry”, you have some slick branding. So rather than focus on language and branding, I’m going to stick with facts. In 2013, our TN Legislature began allowing loaded firearms in cars. In 2020, the Legislature began allowing permit-less carry (despite the fact all major law enforcement organizations, the chiefs of police of Nashville, Knoxville, Chattanooga, and Memphis, and 72% of surveyed citizens opposing it). In 2022 Tennessee became the number one state in the country for road rage murders. We also lead the nation in guns stolen from cars, many unlocked, which are used in subsequent crimes. There is no current penalty for unsafe storage of firearms in Tennessee.

I know this all too well since in 2016, my little brother was shot to death in broad daylight on a busy road one block from the MNPD North Precinct. My brother made the mistake of honking at a bad driver; that person fired two shots at the intersection of Buchannan and Ed Temple, and simply drove away. Keep in mind that three years earlier it would not have been legal to have a gun in the car; now it is normal. We never found out who did this, and my brother was one of eight people murdered in Nashville in a 10-day span by a firearm, not a hammer, a knife, or an anvil; it was a gun.

Firearm deaths have now overtaken automobile accidents as the number one cause of death in the United States as of 2017. Of course, to drive an automobile, you must have a license, training, and insurance. Regrettably, that isn’t the case with firearms. Also, firearm deaths are now the number one cause of death for children 19 and under in the United States. An AR 15-style weapon is not a “sporting gun,” it was a variant of the M16 that was designed to cause maximum damage to human bodies and win wars; it was never designed to be a civilian weapon. It doesn’t matter that it isn’t fully automatic, in fact, most military experts agree a semi-automatic weapon is better in certain tactical situations. No responsible hunter would use this style of weapon while stalking game; the damage it causes ruins the prey. But sadly, it has been the preferred weapon in the majority of mass shooting events, including the tragedy at Covenant.

It is important to note that mass shootings only account for less than one percent of gun fatalities in in the United States, no matter how horrific they are. Far more deaths result from domestic violence situations and more than half of gun deaths are the result of suicide. And

Tennessee has some of the worst statistics in the country, certainly because of our endlessly eroding gun laws. Indeed, as our legislators rushed to flee without passing gun reforms last session, they did take the time to pass a bill that shields gun manufacturers from liability. There is hope though. The majority of the state, including the majority of gun owners, support common-sense gun reforms. Like the Extreme Risk Order of Protection (ERPO) laws that are in place and effective in more than 20 states, including DC and Florida. Or universal background checks with a mandatory waiting period. Or bringing back required training and permits for carrying firearms. Or for requiring gun owners to store their weapons safely. None of these suggestions violate anyone’s rights and are supported by the majority of citizens. Ultimately, this is about an out-of-control hobby that has superseded the rights of Americans to expect public safety. We legislated our way into this, and we can legislate our way back to common sense – just like the rest of the world.


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