As gun violence terrorizes Tennessee, GOP blocks most gun safety reform

More than 515 adults, 56 kids dead from gunshot wounds since Tenn. legislature adjourned last year without reform

Tennessee Senate Democrats
4 min readApr 22, 2024


TENNESSEE — After a shooter killed three 9-year-olds and three staff members at The Covenant School in March 2023, Tennesseans demanded the Republican majority reverse course from its obsession of repealing gun safety laws. Instead of heeding these calls for action, the Republicans who control the state legislature blocked a variety of gun safety proposals from being considered and gaveled out of session on April 21, 2023 having done nothing to stop a future shooting.

It’s been a year since then and the Senate Democratic Caucus has tracked media reports of firearm incidents and injuries across the state to show the devastating consequences of Republican inaction. The information is collected and posted publicly at

Now, one year after the 2023 session ended without meaningful gun safety reform, more than 571 people have died from gunshot wounds, including 56 children. Additionally, 1,131 people have been injured by gunfire, including 122 children.

That’s about 22 people getting shot and 11 people dying by gunfire each week. And every 10th person who dies from a gunshot wound is a child.

Dangerous loopholes includes state-level statistics on gun violence as well as a history of gun violence data and the loopholes in current law.

Republicans in the Tennessee General Assembly have for over a decade used their power mostly to loosen gun laws, for instance, allowing guns in trunks/vehicles for any gunowner, guns in parks, open carry without a permit or background check. Gun lobby-backed legislators promised that more guns carried by more people in more places would make us safer.

The statistics say otherwise.

  • Tennessee ranks 1st in the South for violent crime and 3rd in the nation, according to FBI crime data.
  • Tennessee ranks 7th in the nation for homicides committed with a firearm and 5th in nation for firearm homicides for children, according to the CDC fatal injury data.
  • Gunshot wounds are the leading cause of death for children in Tennessee, according to state reports.
  • Tennessee ranks 4th in the nation for unintentional shootings involving children.

Closing loopholes

To restore public safety and address Tennessee’s gun violence crisis, lawmakers have proposed a variety of solutions — all of which have been defeated by the Republicans in charge:

  • Legislation to make straw purchases (knowingly purchasing a gun for a person who is prohibited, including those who have been convicted of a violent crime) a felony
  • Legislation to make giving or transferring a gun to a prohibited person a felony
  • Legislation holding parents accountable if their child accesses a gun from home and brings it to school.
  • Legislation holding adult gun owners responsible if a child under 13 gains access to an improperly stored gun and shoots themselves or someone else with it.
  • Legislation to allow immediate family members or law enforcement to petition a judge to temporarily remove guns from a person who is an imminent risk to themselves or others.
  • Legislation to hold gun owners responsible for not securing their firearms in vehicles.
  • Legislation to strengthen dispossession laws and protect domestic violence victims.
  • Legislation to increase the number of licensed school counselors who could identify students undergoing mental health crises.
  • Legislation to allow individuals to voluntarily add their name to a “do not sell” registry if they are concerned they might take their own life with a gun.

In fact, the legislature in recent years has passed only one bipartisan bill to prevent dangerous people from accessing firearms. The Jillian Ludwig Act, named after a Belmont student who was killed in a park, will bar gun sales to people who have been adjudicated by a court as mentally ill — a small step in the right direction.

But that legislation is an outlier. Members of the GOP majority have preferred to advance legislation that expands the number of places where firearms can be carried and the types of firearms that can be carried. Republicans even passed a law banning local governments from taking action without state approval.

  • Legislation to arm teachers, despite objections from educators and parents.
  • Legislation to reduce the age to carry long guns, including military-style assault rifles, from 21 to 18.
  • Legislation to allow the open carry of loaded long guns, including military-style assault rifles.
  • Legislation to allow guns to be carried on private school campuses
  • Legislation to force all public school students to participate in firearm instruction regardless of a parent’s objection
  • Legislation to ban local governments from considering extreme risk protection orders, despite the state’s existing preemption statutes that already ban local governments from passing any ordinance or law related to firearms.
  • Legislation to allow a private citizen to threaten to use deadly force in making an arrest.
  • A resolution to amend the constitution to eliminate the legislature’s authority to regulate firearms.