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Guns collected from a gun buyback program

Tennessee last year ranked No. 1 nationwide among states with the highest number of accidental gun shooting incidents involving children under age 18, according to data compiled by the Children's Firearm Safety Alliance.

There were 31 injuries and/or deaths in the state — nearly three a month.

It's a tragic achievement.

And it's why a bipartisan group of Tennessee senators on Monday introduced legislation they hope will encourage firearms owners to buy gun safes by exempting those sales from state sales taxes.

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Sen. Kerry Roberts, R-Springfield, and Senate Minority Leader Lee Harris, D-Memphis, said they're hopeful the legislation will curb accidental shootings by children who gain access to family weapons.

It's a start. It's not additional safety controls on guns themselves. And it's not a required gun safe purchase for every gun owner. It's not mandatory background checks for all sales, and it's not mandatory gun safety training. But it's still a good and common-sense start.

Roberts said he hopes the legislation will make gun safes more affordable and accessible to gun owners" while creating a "safer environment for children and hopefully prevent the heart-breaking tragedies that occur."

A positive sign for the bill's passage is a comment from Sen. Mike Bell, R-Riceville. Bell, a hunter and National Rifle Association member who is a regular opponent of anything even hinting of gun oversight, seems willing to back the measure.

"We are not here to take anyone's gun. We just want the safe storage," Bell said Monday.

Two years ago, GOP majority lawmakers refused to back a Democratic bill known as "MaKayla's Law, to penalize adults who leave loaded guns unattended and accessible to children in cases where the children get the weapons. The measure, sponsored by Sen. Sara Kyle, D-Memphis, was named after an 8-year-old Jefferson County girl killed in 2015 by an 11-year-old boy because she wouldn't let him play with her puppy.

While the MaKayla's Law bill borrowed from NRA gun-safety recommendations, the powerful gun lobby opposed putting requirements in state law. It failed in a Senate committee.

Voters, don't let this bill fail, too. Call your lawmakers and tell them you applaud this effort to help gun owners keep their guns in a locked safe — and away from children.

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