State Sen. Sara Kyle and state Rep. Sherry Jones today announced legislation – MaKayla's Law – in response to preventable, tragic shootings involving children in Tennessee.
"MaKayla's Law would create a criminal penalty so that people think twice before leaving their guns loaded and available for a child to accidentally or intentionally harm themselves or others," Sen. Kyle said. "These tragic deaths are 100% preventable. The boy who shot MaKayla is in jail, but his father who left his loaded shotgun in reach remains free."
Named for MaKayla Dyer, an 8-year-old girl from White Pine who was shot and killed by another boy over a puppy, the legislation creates a Class C felony if a firearm is left loaded and accessible to a child under 13.
"We don't see this as a Second Amendment issue," Rep. Jones said. "This is a public health issue. If we had 10 children die in a year of a foodborne illness, or from a dangerous toy, or from terrorism, the legislature would take immediate action."
In a paper published in 2012 by the Journal of Pediatric Surgery, researchers from the Monroe Carrell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt addressed firearm injuries among Tennessee children, noting that firearm injuries are a major source of morbidity and mortality nationwide as well as in Middle Tennessee. The study noted "firearm injuries occurring in children are a major public health concern."
MaKayla Dyer's tragic death made international headlines, but she wasn't the only one. There were 10 children shot to death in 2015 and one so far this year.