Firearm-related death rates remain alarmingly high

Gus Creter- Copy Editor

Gun violence continues to be a persistent problem in the state of Tennessee, with recent data shedding light on the severity of the issue within its borders.

According to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI), firearm-related deaths have remained alarmingly high in the state, with firearm deaths being one of the highest causes.

Jack Siegers, a sophomore computer science major, was one of many students to receive the alarming warning regarding a potential active shooter on campus in February. “At first I was confused and I thought it was a test, but when the second notification came through I was concerned.”

In 2022, Tennessee recorded 751 firearm-related deaths, encompassing homicides, suicides, and accidental shootings. 

Nationwide, the Gun Violence Archive reported 36,464 injuries, as well as 43,124 all encompassing firearm-related deaths in 2023 alone. Within Tennessee, these statistics reflect a troubling pattern of gun-related incidents, prompting calls for a change to be made.

In 2021, The Sycamore Institute reported gunfire being the tenth leading cause for death in the state of Tennessee, being the leading cause of those aged one to 18. Tennessee also ranked the 11th highest for firearm death rates.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offer further insights into the dynamics of gun violence in Tennessee. As per their most recent data from 2021, for every 100,000 Tennesseeans, there are 22.8 deaths due to firearms.

“More strict gun laws need to be enacted to solve this problem,” Siegers said. “I also think the campus could hold informative sessions about the dangers of gun violence, as well as listening to the young people experiencing this issue.”

One significant factor contributing to the prevalence of gun violence in Tennessee is the accessibility of firearms. The state’s lenient gun laws, including provisions for open carry without a permit, contribute to an environment where firearms can be readily available for anyone with an adult ID. This accessibility exacerbates the risk of gun-related incidents, prompting calls for legislative reforms.

Socioeconomic disparities also intersect with the issue of gun violence in Tennessee. Poverty, lack of access to education, and limited economic opportunities contribute to a cycle of violence in many communities across the state and country. Addressing these underlying factors is essential for fostering safer environments and reducing the risk of gun-related tragedies.

Efforts to combat gun violence in Tennessee require a multifaceted approach, encompassing legislative reforms, community engagement, and targeted interventions. Implementing universal background checks, enforcing waiting periods for firearm purchases, and advocating for red flag laws are among the measures being considered to enhance public safety.

Business owner and Cookeville local Ryan Good saw a different reason as to why gun violence has increased in the state.

“I grew up around guns… and when I was a kid we never really worried about shootings. There is no reason why young people should have to worry about a gun going off on campus or anywhere else,” Good said. “The only way to ensure these rates go down is through better mental care.”

Investing in mental health services and trauma-informed care is crucial for addressing the root causes of violence. By providing support and resources to individuals at risk, Tennessee can mitigate the risk of gun-related incidents and promote holistic well-being within its communities.

Education and awareness play an important role in fostering responsible gun ownership and promoting safe storage practices. Empowering individuals with the knowledge and skills to handle firearms responsibly can help prevent accidents and unauthorized use, thereby reducing the incidence of gun-related injuries and deaths.

Addressing gun violence in Tennessee requires a collaborative effort from those making policies, community leaders, stakeholders across sectors and you, the reader, speaking out. Through listening to its citizens and addressing the problem head-on, Tennessee can make strides toward building safer and more resilient communities for all its residents.