Deadlier than vehicles
While motor-vehicle deaths dropped 22 percent from 2005 to 2010, gun fatalities are rising again after a low point in 2000, according to the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Shooting deaths in 2015 will probably rise to almost 33,000, and those related to autos will decline to about 32,000, based on the 10-year average trend.
The brick home at 6568 River Stream Drive was quiet Friday afternoon except for the sound of chimes rattled by cold wind.
Several cars filled the driveway of the Harrison home. A John Deere toy tractor lay on the porch, and a Christmas wreath hung on the door.
The blinds were closed tight at the home county property records show is owned by Stanley and Janet Nowell. A woman who answered the door and wouldn't give her name said no one inside wanted to talk. "It's been a long night," she said. "The family is sleeping."
Not much is known about how 2-year-old Brennan Nowell got hold of a family handgun and shot himself. He died in the hospital Thursday night. The Hamilton County Sheriff's Office is investigating, but officials said they wouldn't comment on the case because of its sensitive nature.
A neighbor who wouldn't give her name said the family is devastated.
"He was the apple of his grandfather's eye," she said of Brennan.
The shooting comes as the nation grieves the loss of 20 children and six adults killed in Newtown, Conn., last week by a lone gunman in an elementary school. Adam Lanza, 20, allegedly took his mother's guns and used one to kill her before spraying Sandy Hook Elementary School with bullets.
A furious debate over gun rights and gun restrictions has ensued.
Gun control advocates point to facts like this: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that in the next two years, gun deaths will outnumber automobile deaths.
Garen Wintemute, director of the Violence Prevention Research Program at the University of California, Davis, attributed the fall in traffic deaths to safer vehicles, restricted privileges for young drivers and seat-belt and other laws, Bloomberg News reported.
In contrast, "we've made policy decisions that have had the impact of making the widest array of firearms available to the widest array of people under the widest array of conditions," Wintemute told Bloomberg.
Gun owners argue that more-stringent gun laws will violate freedoms and lead to more violence. Criminals might still be able to get weapons while law-abiding citizens couldn't, gun advocates say.
And while national attention has been on states with mass shootings such as Colorado, Oregon, Virginia and Arizona, the South and Chattanooga are no strangers to murderous and accidental gunfire.
Almost every week inner-city gunfire is reported. This year 95 people have been shot and nearly 20 killed in Chattanooga, according to police reports.
This year alone, four Chattanooga-area children under the age of 14 have died because of accidental gunfire.
One boy was accidentally shot in a bathroom when a shotgun slipped, his family reported. An 11-year-old was shot in the face by her brother. A 3-year-old shot herself in the face with her grandfather's handgun.
Brennan Nowell became the fourth, shot with his grandfather's gun, neighbors told TV news crews. He died five days before Christmas.
The CDC reports that between 2005 and 2009 -- the latest data available -- 304 children under the age of 14 were killed by unintentional gunfire across the country. The South claims more than half of those fatalities. In 2005, an article by the American Academy of Pediatrics showed that 6.6 percent of Tennesseans kept the gun in their home loaded and unlocked.
Staff writer Kate Harrison contributed to this report.
Joan Garrett McClane has been a staff writer for the Times Free Press since August 2007. Before becoming a general assignment writer for the paper, she wrote about business, higher education and the court systems. She grew up the oldest of five sisters near Birmingham, Ala., and graduated with a master's and bachelor's degrees in journalism from the University of Alabama. Before landing her first full-time job as a reporter at the Times Free Press, ...