Gun violence is a growing problem in Tennessee. As we are shaken repeatedly by mass shootings, we know that there is more to the problem. Accidental shootings, domestic violence, altercations among acquaintances and suicides are part of the problem.
Conventional wisdom says that we would face extremely difficult odds to do something about the problem in a red state. We don't care about the odds. We must take action if we are to solve this problem and reduce the number of preventable deaths due to gun violence. We are putting forth our solutions, and encouraging others to join us or share their own solutions.
To that end, Democrats in the Tennessee General Assembly will work tirelessly on legislation to prevent gun violence in the next legislation. Some of these are new. Some were introduced in previous years and will be introduced again in 2017.
Here are 10 evidence-based initiatives that would reduce gun violence in Tennessee.
1. Pass Terrorist Watch List Legislation
SB 1963/HB 2023 by Sen. Jeff Yarbro and Rep. Bill Beck would have prohibited the sale of firearms to persons who are listed on the federal terrorist watchlist. SB 2468/HB 2596 by Sen. Lee Harris and Rep. Jason Powell would have required the TBI to consult with the Department of Safety and the FBI to determine whether any handgun carry permit holders are on the federally maintained no fly list and report the number of permit holders on the list to the General Assembly each year.
2. Pass increased penalties for firearm sellers who do not conduct background checks
SB 2310/HB 2366 by Sen. Sara Kyle and Rep. Mike Stewart would have created a Class C misdemeanor if the seller of such firearm intends to sell the firearm or does sell the firearm, without conducting a background check on the buyer.
3. Pass common sense gun purchasing legislation
SB 2311/HB 2365 by Sen. Sara Kyle and Rep. Mike Stewart would have required that when neither the seller or purchaser of a firearm is a licensed gun dealer, the transaction must be completed through a licensed gun dealer and the dealer must perform the same background check required for purchases from licensed gun dealers.
4. Pass Gun Violence Restraining Order (GVRO) legislation
SB 2035/ HB 2546 by Sen. Lee Harris and Rep. Johnnie Turner would have created a mechanism for concerned family members or law enforcement officers to petition a court for a Gun Violence Restraining Order (GVRO) when there is sufficient evidence for a judge to believe that an individual may pose a danger to themselves or others. The GVRO would temporarily prohibit the individual form purchasing or possessing firearms and allow law enforcement to temporarily remove any firearms in the individual’s possession.
5. Pass MaKayla’s Law
SB 2294/HB 2058 by Sen. Sara Kyle and Rep. Sherry Jones would have held adult gun owners responsible if they left a loaded gun accessible to a child under 13 who fired the gun and injured or killed themselves or someone else.
6. Pass Safe Storage Posting Legislation
SB 2421/HB 2452 by Sen. Jeff Yarbro and Rep. Joe Towns would have required firearms dealers who sell firearms to the public to post visible signs at the point of sale informing purchasers of safe storage recommendations for firearms.
7. Pass Guns in Parks Exemption
SB 1432/HB 14069 by Sen. Lee Harris and Rep. John Ray Clemmons would have created an exemption to the Guns in Parks law prohibiting a handgun carry permit holder from carrying a firearm when entering a public park or an event occurring at the park if a ticket is required for entry and the park is owned or operated by a county or municipality, or company contracting with the government to conduct the event. It further prohibits firearms in arenas, stadiums, and structures where a professional sports team plays, practices or trains.
8. Pass legislation, similar to Hawaii’s landmark legislation, to enroll gun owners in the FBI system.
This will help alert authorities when a gun owner is arrested for a criminal offense anywhere in the country, allowing state authorities to evaluate whether the firearm owner can continue to possess and own weapons.
9. Pass legislation to tighten domestic violence offender loopholes so they can no longer access weapons.
Let’s verify that people who have been served an order of protection or have been convicted of domestic violence are prohibited from possessing guns.
10. Pass legislation to require the State of Tennessee to study and research policies, trends and patterns on firearm violence within our state.