NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Firing your gun into the air alone won’t get you arrested in Tennessee, even when it’s in a busy area.
A state representative says it’s a legal loophole that needs to be closed.
On Sunday, a veteran who had checked himself into the VA Medical Center on 24th Avenue for a psychological evaluation.
According to the police report, he then walked outside and emptied a .40 caliber Smith and Wesson into the air because “wanted to commit suicide and have police shoot him.”
He then walked back into the hospital and told staff he was suicidal.
News 2 called Metro Police to see why the veteran hadn’t been charged for discharging a weapon in such a busy area.
A spokesperson told us it was because he was shooting into the air and wasn’t shooting at anyone. There were also no known victims and no one was injured.
Deputy District Attorney Roger Moore said for a person to fire a gun in the area and be charged with reckless endangerment, a person must “recklessly engage in conduct that places or may place another person in imminent danger of death or serious bodily injury.”
Moore says determining that is up to the arresting officer’s judgement.
But even reckless endangerment may not apply, according to the Tennessee Firearms Association.
It pointed to a Tennessee appellate case, State V. Fox, where a judge determined “merely discharging a gun, standing alone, is not sufficient to constitute commission of reckless endangerment.”
Veteran turned State Representative Mike Stewart believes that loophole should be closed.
“I’m a veteran. I’m the first person to say if the guy was having an episode and no one was killed maybe you give him a break,” he said. “But by shooting that weapon into the air, he absolutely could have injured or killed somebody.”
Stewart tried banning “celebratory gunfire” two years. He said his law would be a catch-all for anyone who fired their gun in the air not for hunting.
He points to an incident this summer when a man was hit in the chest by a stray bullet on the Fourth of July, while he was watching fireworks.
“It’s extremely dangerous behavior,” said Rep. Stewart. “We’ve had people hit by this gunfire. So why should we wait around until someone’s killed before we pass a law?”
Rep. Stewart says he’s going to bring back the bill this upcoming legislative session for reconsideration.
In the Davidson County Urban Services district, it is against the city ordinance to fire your gun, punishable by a $50 fine. You can’t fire a weapon in the General Services district at night.