The data is in and gun violence is a major problem in the United States. We have a gun death rate 13 times greater than other high-income nations. By early February, more people are killed with guns in the US than are killed with guns in other high-income countries in an entire year, and many more are wounded and witness gun violence.
All told, 58% of American adults, including 68% of Black and Hispanic Americans, are survivors of gun violence, either experiencing gun violence themselves or caring for someone who has experienced gun violence in their lifetimes.
Guns are now the leading cause of death for American children and teens (ages 0-19). Gun suicide alone claims the lives of nearly 24,000 people each year, a tragedy that touches every community, including ours, and is often preventable. That is an average of 65 people per day. Make no mistake: Our country’s gun violence epidemic is a public health crisis.
Gun violence is not just a “big city problem.” It’s affecting every size community. Too frequently does a story about another shooting make the headlines in our small-town local papers. There have already been four different shootings that have been reported in the first two months of this year here in the Tri-Cities.
Back in October last year, a restaurant in downtown Johnson City had to end its late-night food service due to safety concerns for patrons and staff because so many unruly customers were pulling out their guns and threatening people.
And these are just the stories that make it to the media — unlike many suicides and domestic violence incidents. Our quiet, safe community hasn’t felt as quiet and safe in the last several years — and our elected state legislators are making us even less safe.
We must pay attention, then demand that our state representatives stop passing dangerous gun laws that most Tennesseans don’t want, such as the permitless carry law last year. This new law allows anyone to carry a concealed, loaded gun in public with absolutely no training and without a background check.
Our lawmakers gutted our carry permit system even though most Tennesseans supported the current system. Police and sheriff departments across Tennessee spoke out against this bill, but our lawmakers cared more about pandering to the extremists than saving lives.
The State leadership is taking us in the wrong direction, but there is a growing group of mothers and others in the Tri-Cities area that is trying to help get Tennessee back in the right direction toward common-sense, evidence-based safety measures and have been for several years now.
We’re volunteers with Moms Demand Action, a grass-roots movement of mothers, fathers, survivors, students and anyone else who wants to see an end to gun violence. Every year in March we hold an Advocacy Day when hundreds of volunteers from all across the state meet and talk with their state lawmakers about what we can do to reduce gun violence. This year’s Advocacy Day is March 9. Instead of Advocacy Day at the State Capitol, we are bringing this urgent message directly to the people.
To be clear, Moms Demand Action is not anti-gun. We’re pro-gun safety and anti-gun violence. Many volunteers are gun owners themselves. We’re fighting for public safety measures that respect the Second Amendment and protect our children and loved ones from gun violence by strengthening our gun safety laws.
Gun violence prevention measures such as background checks on all gun sales and secure storage laws are policies that the majority of Tennesseans support that would save lives.
There are local groups in every state across the country, including one here in the Tri-Cities area. If you want to get involved or simply get informed on the gun violence prevention work that is being done in the community to bring an end to gun violence, you can get connected with your local group.
Text JOIN to 644-33, find local meetings by downloading the app https://momsdemandaction.org/app/ or find a Moms Demand Action event near you at https://momsdemandaction.org/events/ .
Sharon M. Brown of Kingsport is a volunteer with Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.