NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — The man who inadvertently shot himself while on Interstate 440 Tuesday night is the 82nd accidental shooting in Tennessee.
And the Safe Tennessee Project says the 81st accidental shooting of a teen in Wilson County should remind all parents to secure their weapons.
Edward Tillman, 16, survived a potentially fatal gunshot wound to the neck Tuesday night while two of his friends where handling a gun. Wilson County sheriff’s officials said charges are possible in the case, but none have been filed yet.
The state ranks fourth in the nation for accidental shootings, according to the Safe Tennessee Project.
The organization said unintentional shootings are plaguing Tennessee even as state lawmakers pass laws that allow guns in more places.
So far in 2016, 43 adults and 21 children have been injured in unintentional shootings, and 6 children and 9 adults have died. That is compared to 10 children killed and 4 adults killed in 2015.
The organization has pushed for laws that hold gun owners responsible if they do not properly secure their firearms and a child shoots another child or themselves.
“The incident yesterday was the 40th involving a child we have tracked since 2015, so we know that there is a problem in our state with kids gaining access to firearms,” policy director Beth Joslin Roth said. “We are hoping to address that, but it has been surprisingly difficult with our legislature.”
The organization tried to pass Makayla’s Law, which did not pass the General Assembly.
The law is named for Makayla Dyer, an 8-year-old girl shot and killed by an 11-year-old boy reportedly because she would not allow him to play with her new puppy.
The law would have held parents accountable if a child accessed a firearm that was not secured and shot/killed someone else. That would include unintentional shootings.
“What happened with the young man last night is a tremendous blessing, because had that bullet been an inch or two in either direction that could have been a more serious injury,” Roth said. “The injuries are also very concerning.”
Opponents of the law cited concerns over the law specifying how gun owners should store their weapons.
The Safe Tennessee Project plans to bring the bill back during the next session, though it will be modified.
“We are going to work on inserting language into the existing reckless endangerment statute,” Roth said. “It is basically a modification of what we did last year. We are offering a good faith compromise to the legislators who were not supportive of us last time.”
Roth told News 2 the law is not to punish parents, especially those who lose their children to an accidental shooting. But the bill is meant to be a deterrent to irresponsible gun ownership.
“As a mother I love my children, and I am a good mother, but if I were to drink, drive and then have a crash where one of my children died, people would still expect me to be charged with a crime,” she said.
Roth continued, “We know unfortunately there are too many gun owners in our state who are not responsible gun owners. They are careless with their weapon when they are cleaning it and they are careless when they are handling it around friends.”
For more information on the number of unintentional shootings in Tennessee, visit the Safe Tennessee Project web site.
The General Assembly will reconvene on Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2017.