According to a Tennessean analysis of FBI statistics, Tennessee is second only to Washington D.C. when it comes to gun violence. Tennessee is the worst in the nation for victims of aggravated assaults with a firearm and fifth-worst in robberies.
The FBI defines aggravated assault as "an attack that inflicts severe bodily injury and is usually done with a weapon likely to produce death or great bodily harm."
Nashville has seen a surge in gangs in the past several years. In 2010, it saw a 4 percent jump in its violent crime rate.
Officials at the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation declined to comment, saying they didn’t collect that data and couldn’t comment on an analysis the agency hadn’t performed.
Don Green, executive director of the University of Tennessee’s Law Enforcement Innovation Center, offered three possibilities: better police reporting, a large number of gang and drug-related crimes, or Tennessee’s high rate of gun ownership.
“One thing you could say would be if there are a number of firearms accessible to individuals, then they would be more inclined to use those during a heated argument."
Research has shown some correlation between states with high gun ownership and high gun-related crimes. The Harvard Injury Control Research Center has published multiple studies showing that people living in areas with more guns are more at risk of being homicide victims.
However, Second Amendment advocates are quick to point out that just because gun ownership and some violent crimes seem to coincide, it doesn’t mean that one causes the other.
“I don’t really buy that, that Tennessee has a higher crime rate because we have a significant percentage of gun ownership,” said John Harris, a Nashville attorney who serves as the volunteer executive director for the Tennessee Firearms Association. “I don’t know that that’s it. It sounds like potentially a correlation however lacking causation.”
Harris pointed to research that shows that handgun permit owners were less likely to commit crimes than the general population.