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As the 2021 Legislative Session Begins Today in Tennessee, Here’s What to Know About Gun Violence

January 12, 2021

As the Tennessee legislature returns to Nashville for the start of the 2021 legislative session, lawmakers will again have the opportunity to pass common-sense gun safety bills. Gun violence prevention is more important than ever in the new year as the pandemic continues to exacerbate gun violence and after a year of increased gun sales, continued police violence, increased risk of suicide and domestic violence, and an increase in city gun violence. 

After last week, when violent extremists – some of whom were reportedly armed – stormed and damaged the United States Capitol Building in an act of violent insurrection, the need to reject radical policies which would likely embolden extremists and vigilantes has never been more evident. Tennessee state law enforcement are reportedly preparing for potential armed rallies in the state capital through the presidential inauguration.

This year, lawmakers should protect Tennesseans by rejecting dangerous legislation that would weaken our gun laws and embolden extremists, including permitless carry. 

What to know about permitless carry in Tennessee:

  • Permitless carry legislation like HB 18, which strips states of essential permitting and training standards for carrying concealed guns in public, allows people to carry a loaded firearm in public without a background check or any safety training. Permitless carry allows extremists and white supremacists to evade background check requirements and safeguards to responsible gun ownership.
  • Last session, broad coalitions of gun safety instructors, law enforcement officials, business leaders, elected officials, faith leaders, and healthcare executives helped block this deadly legislation. In Knoxville, Mayor Indya Kincannon, Police Chief Eve Thomas, and Councilwoman Seema Singh have opposed the policy. In Memphis, Police Director Michael Rallings, Mayor Jim Strickland, Shelby County District Attorney Amy Weirich, and the Memphis Crime Commission have urged lawmakers to reject permitless carry. In Nashville, District Attorney Glenn Funk and Mayor John Cooper have spoken out against the bill. The director of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigations also testified against the bill. 
  • Ninety-three percent of recent Tennessee voters support requiring a permit to carry a loaded handgun in public — including 92 percent of Republicans and 91 percent of gun-owning households. Sixty-five percent of recent voters would be less likely to vote for Gov. Lee if he signed legislation that would eliminate the requirement to get a permit in order to carry a loaded handgun in public. More information about permitless carry is available here.

What to know about gun violence in Tennessee

  • In Tennessee, on average, 1,143 people are shot and killed with a gun every year.
  • An average of 426 people in Tennessee die by gun homicide every year; Tennessee has the eighth highest rate of gun homicide in the United States. Black people in Tennessee are eight times as likely to die by gun homicide as white people.
  • Firearms are the leading cause of death for children and teens in Tennessee. In an average year, 105 children and teens die by gun in Tennessee, and 60% of these deaths are homicides. Black children and teens are four times as likely as their white peers to die by guns.
  • Homicide levels in major cities in Tennessee, including Memphis and Nashville, have risen over the past year, as the coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated the root causes of gun violence and brought unprecedented challenges to the work of local gun violence intervention programs.

Statistics about gun violence in Tennessee are available here, and Everytown’s Gun Law Navigator – which shows how Tennessee gun laws compare to those of other states – is available here

If you have questions, or to request an interview with a volunteer from Tennessee Moms Demand Action, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

If you're a member of the media, please send inquiries to [email protected]