More Guns Could Mean More Youth Homicides: UT Prof

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — A new Tennessee gun law might increase the rate of homicide among children and youths, the head of sociology at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville said Tuesday.

 Dr. Michael Benson said the new law which became effective Tuesday could put more guns into the hands of children.

 “The problem is that there are simply too many guns around,” Benson said. “When there are so many guns available, it is easy for young people to get them.”

 The new law allows Tennesseans over age 21 to carry a concealed handgun after taking a safety course and paying a $100 fee at a Department of Safety driver’s testing station.

 Formerly, anyone getting a handgun permit had to post a $50,000 liability bond, a cost of about $400 a year. Permits were at the discretion of county sheriffs.

 State safety officials and gun shop owners expect the law to increase gun ownership.

Studies show that many youths acquire guns from adults who legally own guns, Benson said.

 “When kids are asked where they got the gun, they often say they borrowed it from a friend or family member, but this doesn’t mean they asked or had permission,” Benson said.

“If the number of guns available in households increases as a result of this law, it is logical to assume that some of those guns are going to fall into the hands of young kids.”

 Thirty-one states have adopted similar handgun laws, which are being pushed by the National Rifle Association.

 “The rate of homicide among young people has risen dramatically in the last decade, and that’s the big problem,” Benson said. “It is clear that one of the factors driving that rate is the increased availability of guns to young people.”

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 Contact: Dr. Michael Benson (423-974-6021)