Tennessee has the dubious distinction of ranking among the top states in the nation when it comes to the number of gun crimes committed. As reported by the Nashville Patch, Tennessee ranks 14th in the number of gun deaths, with 17.1 deaths occurring per every 100,000 residents according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The FBI reports that in 2016, 15,070 people died as the result of a gun crime, 486 of them in Tennessee. That same year, law enforcement officers recovered 10,131 guns used to kill or injure Tennessee residents, including 6,402 handguns and 1,147 rifles. As for Memphis, the Safe Tennessee Project adds that its 228 homicides in 2016 represented the highest number in 20 years. In fact, its murder rate due to gun violence was twice that of Chicago.
Alarming 2017 statistics
2017 was no better, especially for Nashville and Knoxville. In Nashville, murder took the lives of 107 people, the most since 1997. The murder rate increased by 160 percent between 2013 and 2017. Meanwhile, Knoxville broke a 20-year murder record.
By far the majority of murders involved shootings by perpetrators who knew their victims. More alarming yet, the Violence Policy Center reports that Tennessee ranks fourth in the nation for murders committed by men against women, 96 percent of whom knew their victims, most through a current or past romantic relationship.
Gun safety advocates point out that Tennessee requires no background check for private gun sales. In addition, the background check system licensed dealers must use has issues of its own, including the way in which court data regarding criminal convictions gets uploaded – or not – into the system. Furthermore, once Tennessee passed its “guns in trunks” law, gun thefts from vehicles became commonplace, putting even more illegal guns on the streets and in the hands of irresponsible people and those wishing to use them for criminal purposes. All in all, Tennessee faces a huge challenge with regard to guns. Without more stringent laws, it may not be possible to reduce the gun violence that plagues this state.
All of the above having been said, bear in mind that not all shootings are criminal in nature. If a defendant can show that (s)he shot in self-defense or in defense of another, these and other alleged crimes are not crimes at all, but instead reasonable and justified shootings under the circumstances.