SMYRNA, TN - Opinion: A pivotal moment for firearm safety in Tennessee began Nov. 1 with the enactment of the Safe Storage of Firearms Act. The new legislation, formerly known as House Bill 347 by State Rep. Mike Sparks, R-Smyrna, introduces a permanent sales tax exemption or gun safes and gun safety devices in the state.
Sparks shared a personal story behind this legislation with Governor Bill Lee before a special session of the General Assembly took place in August to strengthen public safety. Sparks reflected on attending the funeral of Kyle Yorlets, a young and talented Nashville musician who was tragically killed in 2019 by two teenagers using stolen firearms.
"I appreciate Gov. Bill Lee and the entire Tennessee General Assembly for their support of this bill. The tragic event of Kyle Yorlets losing his life with a stolen firearm is heart wrenching. It's equally as tragic of the two young people who will spend 25 years of their lives in prison costing Tennessee taxpayers roughly $1.5 million. As a society, we should do all we can to reach these young people to make better life decisions and let them be aware that there are consequences for their actions."
The Safe Storage of Firearms Act now stands as a tribute to those who have suffered due to gun-related tragedies. The legislation underscores Tennessee's commitment to firearm safety and responsible gun ownership.
It also addressing the growing issue of gun thefts within the state. According to a recent report from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, a staggering 5,386 firearms were stolen from automobiles in Tennessee in 2022, exposing a pressing concern of firearms ending up in the wrong hands.
In response to this concerning trend, state lawmakers have taken decisive action by categorizing firearm theft as a felony, irrespective of the firearm's value. This legal change serves as a powerful deterrent against firearm theft and reaffirms the state's dedication to enhancing firearm safety.
The Nashville Police Department has also been actively engaged in tackling this issue, encouraging Nashvillians to adopt preventative measures. Their recommendations include securing valuables, especially firearms, and ensuring that automobile doors are kept locked.
In 2023 alone, 1,014 firearms have already been stolen from vehicles in Nashville, contributing to a total of 1,291 guns stolen in Davidson County this year. Shockingly, nearly 80% of the firearms stolen in 2023 were taken from automobiles, underscoring the critical need for securing firearms and other valuables in vehicles. It is vital to recognize that these vehicle burglaries are often closely linked with vehicle theft, as vehicles with keys left inside or readily accessible become prime targets for criminals. This issue extends beyond stolen firearms and can result in a range of criminal activities, including carjackings and robberies.
In a separate, deeply concerning incident, the Smyrna Police Department is actively seeking suspects responsible for the theft of police equipment, including armor and firearms. This theft occurred Oct. 29 when three police vehicles were targeted and burglarized at an officer's residence. The Smyrna Police Department is collaborating with multiple agencies in an ongoing investigation to bring the suspects to justice, highlighting the urgency of heightened vigilance and security measures.