MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - One was sitting out on a dad's nightstand. Another, according to a police affidavit, was under a parent's bed sheets.
Three children, shot with their parents' neglected firearms. Two are dead. All in one Memphis weekend.
It all comes as no surprise to the Safe Tennessee Project.
The gun safety advocacy group just released a study that revealed Tennessee and Memphis lead the nation in children hurt or killed by gun negligence. According to the study, Tennessee tops all 50 states in the number of children hurt so far this year: 20 shot by a parent's negligently stored firearm (Florida is second with 17 children shot so far this year. Texas is third with 15). Twelve of the Tennessee 20 were under the age of 13. Eight were killed. Six involved a child shooting a sibling, cousin, or other relative
According to the study, nine of the 20 Tennessee children were in Memphis--six shot since June 21 and the remaining three in just the last three days. Those trends, according to the study, make Memphis the worst city in the country for kids hurt by their parents' neglected guns, ahead of Nashville, St. Louis, and Jacksonville, Florida.
"This has nothing to do with race, geography or socioeconomics," said Beth Joslin Roth, policy director for the Safe Tennessee Project. "What it comes down to is just parents who don't think. Ultimately, that's what it comes down to is parents just not thinking that it will happen to them."
Joslin Roth said it's not uncommon for those adults to ignore gun safes, even as effective safes are available for less than $100 with key locks, combination locks, or, in some cases, RFID (radio frequency) chip or biometric entry.
"Most police departments will provide you a free gun lock if you ask, and organizations like mine will provide a free gun lock if you ask," she said.
Tennessee lawmakers tried to pass a bill to penalize adults who leave loaded guns unlocked and accessible to children under 13. The bill died under the weight of the gun lobby's argument that the issue is about personal responsibility, not political policy.
To be sure, gun safety is a parent's personal responsibility, regardless of some legislature's mandate. If you can afford a gun, you can afford to secure it--and your kids cannot afford your carelessness. Three families in three consecutive days are living--and dying--proof.