Democrats push bill to criminalize guns for kids

Democratic lawmakers promoted at a Thursday news conference a bill to deter gun owners from leaving loaded guns accessible to children — and named it “MaKayla’s Law” after the 8-year-old Jefferson County girl killed by an 11-year-old neighbor with his father’s shotgun, reports Richard Locker.

MaKayla Dyer’s mother, Tasha Patterson of White Pine, and grandfather, Robbie Huddleston of Illinois, agreed to have MaKayla’s name on the bill and support the effort, said Beth Joslin Roth, policy director for the Safe Tennessee Project, which is helping push the bill.

If approved, the bill would make it a violation for a person to “recklessly place, leave or store in plain view and readily accessible to a child under 13 if the gun is left unattended,” not under the owner’s control, and either contains ammunition or ammunition is in the immediate vicinity — unless the gun has a trigger lock or similar device or is in a locked container or cabinet accessible only by the owner or the owner’s spouse.

A violation would be:

A class A misdemeanor if a child under 13 gets the gun under those circumstances but does not fire it or permit another to fire it.

A class E felony if the child fires the gun or permits another to and the discharge causes bodily injury to the child or another.

A Class C felony if the discharge results in the death of the child or another.

Senate Bill 2294/House Bill 2058 was filed by state Sen. Sara Kyle, D-Memphis, and state Rep. Sherry Jones, D-Nashville, and is set for review Tuesday in the Senate Judiciary Committee and Wednesday in the House Civil Justice Subcommittee.

A Jefferson County Juvenile Court judge found Benny Tiller, 11, delinquent by reason of first-degree murder in MaKayla’s Oct. 3 death and ordered him held in state custody until age 19. No one else has been charged. Law enforcement officials say the girl was killed by a shotgun blast to her chest after the boy got his father’s 12-gauge shotgun in their mobile home near White Pine and fired it through a window. MaKayla was standing outside with two other girls who were not hit.

Citing figures compiled by Safe Tennessee Project, Kyle said last year in Tennessee there were at least 25 shootings reported involving children, “resulting in 10 tragic, preventable deaths.