Unsecured firearms in vehicles lead to unsafe communities — often putting firearms into the wrong hands.
Ten years ago, Tennessee passed a law allowing firearms to be stored in unoccupied vehicles without the ability to enforce a requirement that they be kept out of sight or locked in the vehicle.1 Since the passage of this law, there has been a remarkable increase in firearm thefts from vehicles. According to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, Tennessee now leads the nation in the number of firearms stolen from vehicles.2
Access to unsecured firearms increases incidents of gun violence both inside and outside the home, especially those involving children and teens.3 Stolen firearms are often later used in the commission of violent crimes.4 Since the law’s passage, firearm deaths in Tennessee have increased by 43 percent.5 The lack of secure storage laws has made our communities less safe.
Tennessee should adopt a secure storage in vehicles law that more effectively deters theft and protects children.
Tennessee should pass a common-sense law that requires firearms to be locked in unaccompanied vehicles and boats. Under the new law, locked should be defined as “stored and secured within a fully enclosed compartment (e.g., a completely separate storage compartment that is fully enclosed and locked by a padlock, key lock, combination lock, electronic lock, or similar locking device securely affixed to the motor vehicle or boat) and inaccessible to others.” Effective legislation would include appropriate measures for enforcement and incentivize compliance. Individuals who have their firearm(s) stolen should be required to report the missing firearm(s) within 24 hours of discovering the theft. If an individual complies with these requirements, he or she should be immune from civil claims arising from the theft.
PROVEN & POPULAR
Secure storage laws are overwhelmingly supported by Tennesseans and are proven to keep our children safer.
Cities located in states with more permissive firearm carry laws are associated with greater rates of gun thefts from cars.6 The high rates of firearm ownership and laws that make it easier to take firearms out of homes create conditions under which firearm thefts from cars may be more likely.7 Groups such as the National Rifle Association (NRA) and The National Shooting Sports Foundation, The Firearm Industry Trade Association (NSSF) have voiced their support for secure vehicle storage and regularly “[remind] gun owners that it’s their responsibility to keep their firearms out of the wrong hands.”8
Child Access Prevention Laws
While we are focused on addressing vehicle storage for the upcoming special session, storage laws can also encompass securely storing firearms at home. Although 26 other states have child access prevention (CAP) laws, Tennessee’s current statutes are not sufficient to prevent minors’ access to firearms. Implementation of reasonable and effective CAP laws is something Tennessee should consider in the future.
 Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-1313 (a)(2)(B), (2013)
 Everytown for Gun Safety analysis of FBI NIBRS data, 2011-2020. Gun Thefts from Cars: The Largest Source of Stolen Guns | Everytown Research & Policy In 2020, data was collected establishing Memphis as the highest rate of gun thefts from cars in the nation, followed by Chattanooga at second highest, with Jackson ranking 14th, and Nashville 15th.
 Unload, Lock, and Separate, Everytown for Gun Safety, last updated 2.22.2023, https://everytownresearch.org/report/unload-lock-and-separate-secure-storage-practices-to-reduce-gun-violence/?_gl=1*vm64n3*_ga*Mjk3MjczMTY1LjE2ODk3MDMzNDQ.*_ga_LT0FWV3EK3*MTY4OTcwMzM0NC4xLjEuMTY4OTcwMzQ1MS4wLjAuMA..
 News Room, Metro Nashville Police Department (queried July 28, 2023) https://www.nashville.gov/search?searchStudioQuery=stolen%20gun&isGrid=false&facets=&orderBy=&start=0
 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Fatal Injury and Violence Data. https://www.cdc.gov/injury/wisqars/fatal/index.html
 There is significant negative correlation (r = –0.389, p < 0.000) between the strength of gun laws and the rate of incidents of gun theft from cars in the 271 cities that reported data to the FBI in 2020. https://everytownresearch.org/gun-thefts-from-cars-the-largest-source-of-stolen-guns/
 Terry Schell et al., “State-Level Estimates of Household Firearm Ownership,” RAND Corporation, April 22, 2020, https://www.rand.org/research/gun-policy/gun-ownership.html
 Preventing Thefts of Firearms from Vehicles, A New NSSF Brochure, The National Shooting Sports Foundation: The Firearm Industry Trade Association (February 5, 2018) https://www.nssf.org/articles/preventing-thefts-of-firearms-from-vehicles-a-new-nssf-brochure/ ; How to Safely Store Your Gun In Your Car, NRA (November 21, 2022) https://www.nrafamily.org/content/how-to-safely-store-your-gun-in-your-car/