Tennessee mistakenly reports 100 extra accidental shooting deaths

Tennessee Department of Health officials discovered a reporting error last week regarding accidental gunshot deaths recorded in 2014.

Deputy Commissioner for Population Health Dr. Michael Warren said Thursday only five people died in the state from an accidental shooting — that’s 100 less than originally reported.

“We regret any confusion that may have arisen when data errors affected the number of deaths attributed to the accidental discharge of firearms in our state,” Warren said. “Even one accidental death is too many, and all firearm owners need to have a heightened sense of awareness about protecting themselves and others from the harm a loaded weapon may cause. We strongly encourage all firearm owners to take the proper training necessary to reduce the risk of accidents.”

The original number outraged gun violence prevention groups, such as The Safe Tennessee Project, who argued lax legislative control of firearms allowed the state’s accidental gunshot death rate to skyrocket from ninth in 2013 to number one just a year later.

Beth Joslin Roth, the project’s policy director, said earlier this month she confirmed the data with the Centers for Disease Control before the organization released critical statements of Tennessee’s gun policies. Roth admitted the mistake Friday.

“As an organization focused on reducing firearm injuries and deaths in our state, we are pleased to discover that the 2014 number was actually the lowest number in over a decade,” she said. “However, using media reports and news stories, we tracked at least 13 unintentional firearm deaths in 2015 and, we’ve already tracked at least 12 this year with the majority each year being children, so we know that we must remain committed to encouraging responsible gun ownership and especially responsible gun storage.”

The revised data shows accidental gunshot deaths in Tennessee hit a 15-year low in 2014.

A department spokesman told the Knoxville News Sentinel the state is still working to identify the source of the data error and prevent it from happening again.