This August, while state lawmakers in Tennessee prepare for a special session on public safety, Tennessee students prepare to return to school – where they face the risk of gun violence on school grounds. Every year students are forced to face the fear of going to schools that don’t feel safe amid the nation’s gun violence crisis. In 2023 alone, there have already been at least 68 incidents of gunfire on school grounds, resulting in 23 deaths and 48 injuries nationally, including this past March in Nashville when three adults and three students were shot and killed at the Covenant School in Nashville.
Students have been forced to normalize learning in constant fear of gunfire ringing out. This epidemic of gun violence in schools is uniquely American, and it’s preventable, but for far too long, leaders in Tennessee have only offered thoughts and prayers. Starting on August 21st, Tennessee lawmakers will be able to pass common sense gun reform to save countless lives during their special session on public safety.
“This fall, I should be worried about where I’m going to sit at lunch and which classes I’m going to take, not looking for the nearest emergency exit,” said Ibtihal Cheko, a Students Demand Action Volunteer and a rising junior at Hume Fogg High School in Nashville. “Tennessee lawmakers have the opportunity to make sure that my peers and I feel safe in the classroom – not by putting more guns in our schools, but by passing laws that will save lives, like an Extreme Risk law. We are calling on our lawmakers to use this special session to protect us – your constituents.”
According to a 2022 study done by Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund, the Polarization & Extremism Research & Innovation Lab (PERIL), and the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), 74% of U.S. youth and young adults ages 14 to 30 agree that gun violence is a problem, with approximately 25% of youth have experienced an active shooter lockdown.
The most important thing lawmakers can do to keep schools safe is to keep guns out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them, including children and teens — especially those who have shown warning signs of dangerous behavior.
Lawmakers should pass an Extreme Risk law, empowering loved ones or law enforcement to seek intervention via a civil order to temporarily prevent someone from accessing firearms if they display warning signs. Since the creation of Florida’s extreme risk protection order, Florida authorities have petitioned more than 10,000 times to keep guns out of the hands of people deemed a risk to themselves or others.
Additionally, research shows that the best way to protect children and teens from accessing guns is to implement secure firearm storage practices, which would aid Tennesseans in protecting both children and adults by helping to prevent gun thefts, unintentional shootings, and gun suicides. An estimated 54 percent of gun owners don’t lock all of their guns securely and at least 4.6 million children in 2021 lived in a home with at least one unlocked and loaded firearm.
Tennessee currently has the 12th highest rate of gun deaths in the United States and some of the weakest gun laws in the country. Guns are the number one killer of kids and teens in the U.S. and in Tennessee.
If you would like to speak to a volunteer with Students Demand Action or Moms Demand Action ahead of the special session, please do not hesitate to reach out.