Tennessee Gun Safety and Mental Health

Learn about Sandy Hook Promise’s policy work and grassroots outreach in Tennessee. Along with local volunteers and partners, join us in creating change to protect Tennessee’s schools, homes, and communities. Get informed and take action.

After the Covenant School shooting in early 2023, many eyes turned towards Tennessee for action and change. Even before Covenant, Sandy Hook Promise was already paying attention to Tennessee for policy solutions. What’s more, tens of thousands of Tennesseans have participated in our violence prevention programs since 2016. Our commitment to Tennessee is long-term. Join 3,000+ advocates in supporting efforts to balance public safety and individual rights. 

Our Impact in Tennessee

27,600 Promise Makers
209 Promise Leaders
78,000 Program Participants
166 Participating Schools
4 SAVE Promise Clubs

The Tennessee Special legislative session

On August 21, the Tennessee special legislative session began. This is a brief period of time where state legislators have headed back to Nashville to make timely policy decisions. The special session represents a significant first step in protecting the children of Tennessee. Because gun violence isn’t inevitable; it is preventable. While no single solution exists, there are proven, sensible firearm access policies that enhance public safety.  

Heading into the special session, legislators filed 104 bills in the Senate. Ultimately, the special session concluded on August 29. Lawmakers passed three of the 100 + bills, two of which relate to firearm access.

SB 7085 / HB7012: Exempts from state and local sales and use tax all sales of firearm safes and firearm safety devices and requires the Department of Safety and TBI to develop a public safety campaign to promote safe firearm storage.
SB 7086 / HB7013: Shortens notification time for court dispositions to the TBI to 72 hours, requires electronic submission, and applies to municipal court.

The legislature will reconvene next on January 9, 2024. Please visit us again for updates.

Two adults embracing one another.

Sandy Hook Parents Encourage Tennesseans to Remain Hopeful

Mark Barden, Co-founder and CEO of the Sandy Hook Promise Action Fund, and Nicole Hockley, Co-founder and CEO of Sandy Hook Promise, know all too well the pain and devastation from gun violence tragedy. Mark’s son Daniel and Nicole’s son Dylan were killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy on December 14, 2012. “As parents who have some understanding of the depth of your pain and the profound void left by the death of your beloved children in the Covenant School shooting, we write to offer support, solidarity, and unwavering hope. This summer brought needed debate and consideration of what it will take to keep Tennessee’s children safe, with some initial steps taken. Like your sorrow, the work continues from here.
Read their letter to the parents of children killed in the Covenant School Shooting and all who share their grief (originally published in The Tennessean).

Mass Shootings in Tennessee

There have been 15 mass shootings in Tennessee in 2023, through the beginning of August.1 Earlier this year, 3 students and 3 adults were killed during a shooting at Covenant School. The small, private Christian school in Nashville serves preschoolers, kindergartners, and elementary school students. Tennesseans also endured a shooting rampage in Memphis that left 4 dead and 3 injured. The killer livestreamed the deadly attacks on social media.2

Firearm-Related Deaths in Tennessee

Tennessean Speaks Out

As a responsible gun owner, I fully support the right to have firearms. But the “right to bear arms” comes with the responsibility to secure our guns safely. Lawmakers — both state and federal — should enact laws that support families that choose to own guns and help them store their guns securely. And those laws should include benefits for the owners, not just penalties for non-compliance.

-Jimi Westbrook, a member of Little Big Town, the father of Elijah, Tennessean and a responsible gun owner.

Action is Possible in Tennessee

We urge the legislature to continue to consider possible solutions. These include emergency temporary transfer, secure storage, and closing the stranger-to-stranger loophole to prevent gun violence and tragedy. Such policies help to put firearms out of reach for those who are a danger to themselves and others or for those not legally allowed to have a firearm. 

Everyone experiences temporary moments of crisis. When that crisis is combined with a firearm, the outcomes can be deadly. Temporary transfer supports gun owners in crisis while protecting their rights and gets them help before things turn tragic.  

A deadly loophole allows guns to be sold between a seller and a buyer who don’t know each other – and no background check is required. Tennessee can close this “stranger-to-stranger” loophole and expand background checks to prevent dangerous people from buying guns 

Too often, children accidentally find firearms in their home. This can lead to the death of themselves and family members. Secure storage laws can prevent these tragedies and make it easier for gun owners to keep firearms away from their young sons and daughters