Residents of the United States are 20 times more likely to die of gun violence than residents of any other developed country. In the last decade in the United States more people have died from guns than died from combat fatalities in World War II.
There are obvious ways to reduce gun violence and accidental gun deaths: safety courses in handling guns, stricter laws about who can own guns, laws restricting the types of guns available, and providing stronger mental health services.
But one Tennessee senator had another idea. Senator Dolores Gresham (R- Somerville) created and passed a bill that allows victims shot in gun-free zones to sue business owners responsible for establishing the zone if the victim can prove that they would have been able to protect themselves if they had been allowed to carry a firearm.
Senate Bill 1736 essentially holds business owners liable for shootings on their property if any of the victims are licensed to carry a gun. There are three main provisions to the bill that makes the business liable for injuries.
- The injured victim was authorized to carry a gun at the time of the accident, and
- The victim was prohibited from carrying a gun because of the business' gun-free zone, and
- The business was not required by federal law to post gun-free zone signs, and electively chose to make that zone gun-free.
Individuals without permits for concealed weapons are not allowed to hold business owners liable under the bill.
The bill was signed by Governor Bill Haslam on April 27, 2016, and went into effect July 1, 2016.
The big assumption of the bill is that individuals with concealed firearms would be able to stop a shooting. But would they?
Of the 51 mass shootings since 2000, none have been stopped by an individual carrying a privately owned gun. Owning guns actually increases the chances of accidental shootings, and last year alone there were almost 13,000 unintentional shootings in the United States.
In the 2011 Tucson shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, a gun-carrying bystander came to the rescue only to aim at another innocent victim. Before shooting, he realized the man had taken the gun away from the shooter.
In fact, studies have actually shown that states with stricter gun laws have fewer gun violence deaths. Americans make up about 5% of the world's population and own about 42% of the world's privately held firearms. That's about one gun per person in the United States.
States with Stand Your Ground laws—laws that protect individuals shooting in claimed self-defense—have a 7 to 9% increase in homicides of innocent people. Tennessee is one of those states.
No matter your view on guns, the numbers show that the assumption that carrying a concealed weapon would absolutely protect and individual from a random act of violence is wrong.