The young Tennessee gun victims ranged in age from 2 to 17.
They had names like Anastasia and Zoriana, Lupita and Samaii, Destiny and Harmony, Joseph and Tyler, Andrew and Anthony.
They lived in big places like Memphis, Nashville and Knoxville, little places like Deer Lodge, White Pine and Sweetwater, and quiet places like Germantown, Collierville, and Hendersonville.
Gun makers have encouraged the environment we’ve got right now. They’re accountable for it, and we need to hold them to it.
State Sen. Art Swann of Maryville
Most of the young gun death victims were shot and killed at home or nearby or sitting in their family car. Some were killed at school or at church or walking down a road.
Some accidentally shot and killed themselves, or were accidentally shot and killed by a sibling, parent or friend.
Others shot and killed themselves intentionally.
Others were shot and killed intentionally by someone they knew, or every now and then, by a complete stranger.
Most were killed with a handgun, but some were killed with a rifle, a shotgun, or a military-style weapon.
During the past decade, the number of Tennessee children ages 17 and under who have been killed by firearms each year has nearly tripled.
In each and every child gun death, an adult was responsible.
An adult purchased or stole or was given the firearm by another adult or provided access to it.
An adult manufactured the gun, or passed a law or wrote a regulation that allowed it or made it available.
An adult left the gun loaded and untended, or fired it, intentionally or unintentionally.
A decade of child gun deaths
Since 2013, the Gun Violence Archive and the National Gun Violence Memorial have recorded 130 of Tennessee's more than 600 child gun deaths.
Our three-part series will highlight all 130. Each vignette tells the larger story of a child lost, a family devastated, a community in fear or mourning or both.
Feb. 22, 2014
Kennedra Miles, age 17, was accidently shot and killed by a 24-year-old who was playing with a loaded gun in the backseat of the car they were in. The 24-year-old pleaded guilty to reckless homicide and was placed on diversion.
Feb. 25, 2014
Cartrail Robertson, age 13, was shot and killed while he was wrestling over a gun with a 15-year-old in a bedroom in Binghampton. The older boy was charged with reckless homicide. Police didn't say or know how the gun was acquired.
April 21, 2014
Denii Compton, age 10, was fatally shot in the face by her 13-year-old brother, Drama Compton, in their home in Whitehaven. They were home alone. Drama Compton pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced to live in a youth development home until he was 19. Eight years later, in 2022, Compton was arrested and charged with unlawful possession of a weapon in connection with the nonlethal shooting of a Memphis police officer who was investigating a stolen car report.
Since 2013, more than 600 children ages 17 and under have been shot and killed in Tennessee.
That year, gunfire killed at least 29 children in Tennessee. In 2021, the most recent year for which reliable statistics are available, guns killed at least 85 children.
Gunfire kills more children in Tennessee each year than in any developed nation outside the U.S., and more on average than in all but eight other states.
Tennessee's rate of child gun deaths is 36 percent higher than the national average.
Gov. Bill Lee has called a special session of the legislature to begin Aug. 21 in response to gun violence in Tennessee.
But so far, any gun-related legislation has been deemed outside the governor's narrowly defined scope of the session.
Lee is asking legislators to consider 18 topics to "enhance public safety" and "likewise protect Constitutional rights."
The word "gun" appears nowhere in the governor's proclamation. Only one of the 18 topics in the proclamation includes the word 'firearm.' It suggests "measures encouraging the safe storage of firearms," but it specifically precludes "creation of penalties for failing to safely store firearms."
None of the topics include measures to strengthen or reverse state laws that have loosened restrictions on making, owning, and carrying guns, laws that have put more guns within reach of more children.
Aug. 10, 2014
Karl Hills Jr., age 7, was shot and killed in an accidental shooting at his grandparents' house. "He loved life and was always happy and smiling," his family wrote in his obituary.
Aug. 15, 2014
Lupita Gomez, age 6, who used a wheelchair, was shot and killed in her Hickory Hill home by her father. The father also shot and killed his 24-year-old and then killed himself. Her mother and 11-year-old brother escaped. Memphis Police Director Toney Armstrong called it a “tragedy for the family, this neighborhood and our community.”
Aug. 17, 2014
Eldin James Rogers, age 4, grabbed a loaded handgun in his home and accidentally shot and killed himself.
Oct. 17, 2014
Anastasia Randoll, age 4, accidentally shot and killed herself while playing with a loaded pistol in her home.
June 9, 2015
Aabriel Jones Jr., age 4, shot and killed himself with a loaded .40-caliber Smith and Wesson semi-automatic handgun he found on his father's bedroom nightstand. Five other children were in the house. Aabriel Jones Sr., who was outside in the yard at the time, was not charged. “Irresponsible gun owners is the first thing that pops into my mind," Shelby County Dist. Atty. Amy Weirich told reporters. "The other piece of that it’s too easy for people to get their hands on guns in our community. (There are) too many guns laying around that can get in the wrong hands."
Aug. 5, 2015
Justin McGhee, age 15, the son of a Robertson County deputy, accidentally shot and killed himself while unloading a .22 caliber rifle.
Aug. 29, 2015
Mason Loupe, age 15, was accidentally shot in the head at his home. The family said the shooting was accidental. No charges were filed.
Oct. 4, 2015
Joseph Bankston, age 2, was shot and killed by a man who conspired with the child's stepfather. The killer also wounded the mother's boyfriend. The stepfather and the killer, both soldiers at Ft. Campbell, pleaded guilty and were sentenced to life in prison.
The special session is primarily a response to last spring's mass shooting at Covenant School in Nashville, during which three children and three adults were shot and killed.
One of Lee's 18 topics of consideration references "offenses of committing acts of mass violence or threatening to commit acts of mass violence."
A mourner at Kelby Shorty’s July 14, 2021 funeral. (Karen Pulfer Focht for The Institute for Public Service Reporting)
But an examination of 130 Tennessee child gun deaths by the Institute for Public Service Reporting shows that school shootings, while horrific, are a small factor in the startling rise in child gun deaths over the past decade.
In this three-part series, we examine the dramatic increase in gun accessibility in Tennessee and its effect on child deaths and crime.
During the past decade, governors, legislators, gun manufacturers and gun lobbyists have made it easier to make, buy, carry, find and steal guns in Tennessee.
In 2009, the year President Obama took office, the state legislature passed the Tennessee Firearms Freedom Act, which exempted gun manufacturers in the state from most federal firearms laws and regulations.
The new law also required that all firearms manufactured or sold in the state be stamped with the words "Made in Tennessee." Republicans passed similar "nullification" laws in several other states.
Federal law requires all manufacturers of firearms and ammunition to be licensed by the federal government.
“The purpose of this bill is to let people know we have state sovereignty, and the federal government has no business telling us what to do,” state Sen. Mae Beavers (R-Mt. Juliet) told reporters.
The nullification law has never been enforced. Courts have consistently overruled such laws as unconstitutional.
Nov. 21, 2015
Andrew Turner, age 5, was accidently shot and killed by his 7-year-old brother. Police said the boys' father was teasing the family cat with a laser mounted on a loaded gun. The father went into the kitchen and left the gun behind. The older brother picked up the weapon and fired it, thinking he was firing the laser. The father, who said he kept the gun nearby for protection, pleaded guilty to negligent homicide and reckless endangerment and was given probation.
Dec. 7, 2015
Colton Johnson, age 5, was shot and killed along with his mother and their dog by the mother's boyfriend, who was convicted and sentenced to prison. He committed suicide in prison in 2018.
Dec. 11, 2015
Sienna Dusk Owens, age 11, was shot and killed with a 20-gauge shotgun by a classmate, age 12. The shooter was found guilty of reckless homicide and sentenced to state custody for an indeterminate amount of time. The shooter's mother pleaded guilty to reckless endangerment with a deadly weapon and was sentenced to probation.
Dec. 17, 2015
Zaevion Dobson, age 15, was shot and killed as he shielded two girls from crossfire by rival gang members. Prosecutors said at least 34 shots were fired from at least four different guns in the attack. Three men were convicted of murder in the case. One received a life sentence and others were given prison terms of more than 100 years. “Zaevion Dobson died saving three friends from getting shot. He was a hero at 15. What’s our excuse for not acting?" President Obama said.
Jan. 4, 2016
LeTara Jones, age 13, was shot and killed when a gun handled by a 21-year-old family friend, accidently discharged. LeTara's 20-year-old brother then shot and killed the family friend. The brother was arrested and charged with voluntary manslaughter.
Jan. 25, 2016
Tyler McBride, age 7, was accidently shot and killed by another child, his older brother, with a semi-automatic pistol he found inside his mother's purse. Tyler was one of four children left untended in a parked car while their mother and stepfather were inside a cell phone store paying a bill. The mother was indicted for criminally negligent homicide. She pleaded guilty to providing a minor with a gun, a misdemeanor. She was given a suspended sentence and probation.
Feb. 5, 2016
Monserratte Ferrer, age 16, was unintentionally shot and killed by a 16-year-old friend with a .380 semi-automatic handgun. The shooter was charged with reckless homicide. The shooter said the boys found the gun on the side of the road.
Feb. 29, 2016
Gavin Pittman, age 3, accidently shot and killed himself while playing with a loaded .38-caliber handgun he found in the glove box in his family's parked car. His mother, who left three children inside the car parked on the driveway while she was outside talking on the phone, was charged with criminally negligent homicide. Charges were dismissed after she agreed to take parenting classes.
After regaining control of the state Senate in 2009, Republicans passed two new laws loosening restrictions on firearms.
One allowed gun permit holders to carry guns in bars and restaurants, if they are not drinking alcohol, and to carry a loaded rifle or shotgun in their vehicles if the ammunition is in the magazine but not in the chamber.
Another allowed people who have gun permits to carry guns in all public parks in the state. Cities and towns could opt out.
Republicans overrode vetoes of both bills by Gov. Phil Bredesen, a Democrat.
Gun Show, Memphis Agricenter, Memphis, Tennessee. Since 2013, the number of firearms sold in Tennessee each year by licensed dealers has increased from more than 461,000 to more than 677,000, according to the ATF. The number of guns sold privately is unknown. (Karen Pulfer Focht for The Institute for Public Service Reporting)
Republicans won the governor's office and a supermajority in both the state House and Senate in 2012.
Since then, the number of guns made, sold, stolen and seized in Tennessee has increased dramatically.
Since 2013, the number of firearms manufactured in Tennessee each year has increased from 5,000 to more than 185,000.
Since 2013, the number of firearms sold in Tennessee each year by licensed dealers has increased from more than 461,000 to more than 677,000. The number of guns sold privately is unknown.
Since 2013, the number of guns stolen from vehicles in Tennessee has increased 10-fold.
In 2011, Tennessee manufactured about 2,300 pistols and revolvers, about 2,300 rifles, and about 150 shotguns.
In 2021, Tennessee manufactured about 135,000 pistols and revolvers, about 13,000 rifles, and about 24,000 shotguns.
Tennessee now ranks No. 1 in the nation for employment in the small arms and ammunition sector, with employment increasing 54 percent from 2016-2021, according to the state Department of Economic & Community Development.
June 26, 2016
Elia Hernandez, age 17, was killed by a stray bullet fired during a fight at a party. Police said Elia was hiding when she was shot. A 19-year-old was arrested and convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison.
July 1, 2016
A 3-year-old toddler fatally shot himself in the face with a .40-caliber pistol. The child was visiting from Fort Riley, Kansas, with his family. The gun belonged to the homeowner. No charges were filed.
July 3, 2016
Alana Luangaphay, age 17, shot and killed herself with a revolver in her cousin's apartment. Police didn't release information on whether the shooting was accidental or who owned the gun. No one was charged.
Aug. 25, 2016
Jayden Norton, age 7, was accidentally shot and killed by his grandfather, Christopher Allen Russell, 54, while he was showing the boy his .357 handgun. The grandfather left the scene in his vehicle and died in a fatal crash that also was ruled an accident.
Nov. 26, 2016
A 17-year-old girl was sitting across from her 13-year-old brother when the .223 rifle he was unloading accidentally fired and killed her. Officials did not release the names of either sibling. No charges were filed.
Dec. 20, 2016
A 12-year-old boy was shot and killed by his 13-year-old brother in their home. The older brother was charged with first-degree murder. Officials did not release the name of either brother.
Jan. 8, 2017
Brock Wyatt Blick, age 11, a sixth grader who loved animals, was accidentally shot and killed by a 20-gauge shotgun during a hunting trip at the Three Feathers Hunting Preserve. "The boy's daddy was holding him," fire department chief Ray Brown said. "Once we got him to the paramedics, they continued CPR a little longer, and then they called it. There was nothing we could have done. It was just a bad episode." The family established the Brock Blick Endowed Scholarship in Agriculture at Austin Peay State University.
June 6, 2017
Harmony Warfield, age 7, a second grader who got straight A's, was shot and killed in an apartment when a handgun being handled by another child accidentally discharged. A 28-year-old man, a reputed drug dealer who left the loaded gun and four children in the apartment, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
In 2016, Beretta, the 500-year-old Italian firearms company, announced it was moving its headquarters and manufacturing from Maryland to Gallatin near Nashville.
Maryland had recently outlawed military-style semiautomatic rifles and high-capacity magazines, which included Beretta's M9 semiautomatic pistol.
Tennessee has no law regulating assault-style weapons or large capacity ammunition magazines.
Tennessee officials offered the company $4 million in land and tax abatements to lure the $45 million development. In 2021, Beretta's Gallatin plant made nearly 130,000 pistols and 24,000 shotguns.
In October 2020, GS Performance announced that it was moving its headquarters, manufacturing and distribution operations, along with 100 jobs, from San Diego to Nashville.
GS manufactures and sells parts and accessories for Glock handguns. Glock, headquartered in Georgia, is the nation's eighth largest gun manufacturer. In 2009, Glock-type semiautomatic handguns began to outsell rifles.
"GS Performance has established itself as a world-renowned gun manufacturer, and we thank the company for its commitment to Tennessee,” Bob Rolfe, Tennessee's commissioner of economic development, said in a statement.
June 11, 2017
Laylah Washington, age 2, was shot and killed while she was riding in a car seat in the back of her mother's car. The shot was fired from another car by a 19-year-old male. Police said the mother had yelled at another driver whose car had almost hit hers in a parking lot. Six years later, the driver pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced to 35 years in prison. "It's just hurting. I just don't understand," a relative told reporters. "I wish they would just put the guns down."
July 8, 2017
Kash Sharp, age 3, shot and killed himself while he was holding her father's loaded handgun. Her 26-year-old father was charged with reckless homicide, later upgraded to first-degree murder in perpetration of aggravated child neglect. He spent a year in jail before the charges were reduced and he was sentenced to probation. "There are millions of weapons in homes with children," his attorney Blake Ballin argued in his defense.
Aug. 19, 2017
A 4-year-old boy accidentally shot and killed himself with his father's gun in their apartment. The child's name was not released. No charges were filed.
Aug. 20, 2017
Deaundre Shannon, age 8, was accidentally shot and killed by his 4-year-old sister with her father's .45-cal. pistol. Police said the father had placed the loaded gun under pillows on a bed near his son. He was charged with reckless homicide. “Their dad was trying to get the baby girl’s phone downloaded for her game so she can play, and that’s when the gun went off,” a family member told reporters.
Sept. 14, 2017
Kayden Hazel, age 3, and Jaylynn Hazel, infant, and their mother were shot and killed by their 27-year-old father with a shotgun. The father pleaded guilty to all three murders and was sentenced to two consecutive life sentences in prison.
Nov. 10, 2017
Robin Keefer, age 1, was accidentally shot and killed by her three-year-old brother. A 25-year-old man admitted that he had put his loaded .40-cal. Smith and Wesson pistol on a bed near the children. He was charged with criminally negligent homicide. Robin Keefer and Laylah Washington, age 2, who was shot and killed in June, were related.
Nov. 13, 2017
Richard Jordan, age 10, was shot and killed as he sat in the back of his mother's SUV at a traffic light. Shots were fired at the car from three other passing cars. Richard's 12-year-old brother was wounded. No one has been arrested for the crimes. "These killings of our babies has got to stop," a family member told reporters.
In May 2021, TROY Industries, one of the nation's largest manufacturers of gun components and accessories, announced that it was moving its headquarters, manufacturing, and 75 jobs from Massachusetts to Clarksville.
Other gun makers such as Smith & Wesson, Colt, HK and Sturm, and Ruger & Company use TROY components.
Police arrest Lindsey Williams, then 27, in March 2020 following the death of a 9-year-old boy who was accidently shot by his 13-year-old cousin while playing with a gun left unsecured. Williams later pleaded guilty to criminally negligent homicide and received judicial diversion. The charge is expected to be dismissed after Williams completes probation in June 2024. (Karen Pulfer Focht for The Institute for Public Service Reporting)
"While TROY has enjoyed a very successful period of growth in Massachusetts, the changing climate for firearms manufacturers in the state determined the need for our relocation to Tennessee to ensure the continued success of the company,” president and CEO Steve Troy said in a statement.
Also in May 2021, the state legislature approved, and Lee signed the Tennessee Second Amendment Sanctuary Act:
"This Act amends Tennessee code to nullify gun control laws that are deemed in violation of the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution. A law, treaty, executive order, rule, or regulation of the United States government that violates the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution is null, void, and unenforceable in this state."
Half a dozen East Tennessee counties have approved similar acts, including Blount County, the new headquarters of Smith & Wesson, the nation's largest manufacturer of firearms.
Earlier this year, a federal judge struck down a similar law in Missouri, ruling it "unconstitutional, invalid, null, void, and of no effect."
Jan. 12, 2018
Samaii Daniel, age 5, and Sam’marie Daniel, age 8, were shot and killed by their 24-year-old half-brother as they played in their front yard. The half-brother also shot and wounded their mother and carjacked and killed a 70-year-old man nearby. The shooter was convicted and sentenced to life in prison.
March 29, 2018
Dorian Harris, age 17, was fatally shot by a store clerk after stealing a beer. The 30-year-old clerk was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to 22 years in prison.
June 12, 2018
Tytkeanna James, age 12, was accidentally shot and killed by her 13-year-old brother as they sat in their mother's SUV at an apartment complex. Tytkeanna's brother and 33-year-old mother both were charged with criminally negligent homicide. The mother told police she'd left both children in her car with a loaded Jimenez .380 semi-automatic handgun. "For our children’s sake, we MUST do better as a community," Mayor Jim Strickland Tweeted. "And we are here to help. We give away free gun locks at all MPD precincts. If you choose to have a gun, stop by a police precinct TODAY to get a gun lock, so that we can keep this kind of tragedy from happening again."
July 16, 2018
Deshun Mitchell, age 2, accidentally shot and killed himself with a loaded gun he found in his home. Police provided no other details. No one was charged.
In September 2021, Smith & Wesson, the nation's largest gun manufacturer, announced that it would move its headquarters, distribution, manufacturing and assembly work to Maryville in East Tennessee.
“We would like to specifically thank Governor Lee for his decisive contributions and the entire state legislature for their unwavering support of the Second Amendment and for creating a welcoming, business friendly environment," company president Mark Smith said in a statement.
The company, founded in Springfield, Mass., in 1856, spent more than $150 million to relocate its major operations to Maryville. Tennessee provided the company with a $9 million economic development grant.
“Our pro-business reputation, skilled workforce, and commitment to the Second Amendment make Tennessee an ideal location for firearms manufacturing. We welcome Smith & Wesson to The Volunteer State and are proud this U.S.-based brand has chosen to relocate from Massachusetts. Thanks for your significant investment in Blount County and for creating 750 new jobs," Gov. Bill Lee said at the time.
Last May, Lee signed a new law, approved by legislators, giving gun and ammunition dealers, manufacturers and sellers special immunity from civil lawsuits.
“This is just to try to help businesses in this state that have chosen to come here, to give them a little (protection from) civil liability,” state Sen. Joey Hensley (R-Hohenwald) said.
Federal law already shields gun makers from civil liability, but in recent years some states have rolled back those protections.
Tennessee's new law strengthens them.
Three Republicans voted against the legislation, including Sen. Art Swann of Maryville. "Gun makers have encouraged the environment we’ve got right now," Swann told his colleagues. "They’re accountable for it, and we need to hold them to it." Gov. Lee's call for a special session does not address gun makers.
Information about each child's death was gathered from the Gun Violence Archive and various media reports.
Aug. 4, 2018
Natalia Irene Huttman-Stanton, age 5, called "Natibug" by her mother, was accidentally shot and killed by a family member who was cleaning a loaded gun. No one was charged. "This incident should be a reminder to everyone to always be aware and responsible when handling or possessing firearms," the Stewart County Sheriff's Department said in a statement.
Aug. 8, 2018
A 9-year-old girl was accidentally shot and killed by her 10-year-old brother as they sat in their family's car outside a pizza restaurant. Police said the father kept a loaded gun in the console of the car. No charges were filed. The child's name was not released. No one was charged.
Sept. 30, 2018
Angel Hernandez, age 3, was accidentally shot and killed by his father as they sat on the front steps of their home. The father, who was wounded by the same shot from a 7.62X39mm caliber pistol with a high-capacity magazine, was charged with reckless homicide. He was later sentenced to 60 months in federal prison for one count of possessing a firearm as an illegal alien and one count of illegally re-entering the United States.
Oct. 21, 2018
Kaleigh Shae Pennington, age 10, was accidentally shot and killed by her twin brother and fellow fifth grader as they sat in their father's truck outside a Dollar General. The boy found his father's handgun under the seat. No charges were filed.
Oct. 29, 2018
Harley Evans, age 11, was shot and killed inside her family's home. The killer also shot and wounded Harley's 10-year-old sister, her father, and her father's girlfriend. The killer was convicted and sentenced to life in prison plus 99 years.
Nov. 20, 2018
Anaya Boyd, age 2, was shot and killed by shots fired into her family's apartment. A 27-year-old man, a family acquaintance, was arrested a year later and charged with murder. Anaya's mother and father also were arrested and charged with first-degree murder aggravated child abuse.