In a move that gun-safety advocates fear will put children and teens at risk, a new state law will force the city of Nashville to allow commuters to carry loaded guns in a busy bus station used by thousands of students each day.
The law, which goes into effect July 1, requires local governments in Tennessee to either allow people with permits to carry loaded guns in public places or to secure those facilities by installing metal detectors and security guards, the Associated Press reported Sunday.
This presents a problem for places like Nashville's Music City Central bus station, where transit officials say it isn't possible to implement airport-level security without huge costs and "commuter chaos," the AP reported.
Thousands of middle- and high-school students take advantage of a Nashville program that gives them free city bus passes, and many of their commutes to and from school take them through the Music City Central bus station every day.
"We have 88,000 students in our school district," school board chairwoman Anna Shepherd told the AP. "We can't afford to have one accidentally shot. Just not even one." In May, local gun-safety advocacy group Safe Tennessee referred to the new law as "NRA legislation."
Proponents of the law say permit holders carrying guns will make people safer, but research has shown that isn't necessarily the case. Stanford Law School professor John Donohue is the author of a 2014 paper that found right-to-carry laws — which make it easier for people to obtain gun permits — lead to increases in violent crime, indicating more guns don't necessarily lead to safer cities.
That may very well turn out to be the case in Nashville. When "you've got a lot of guns circulating," Donohue said in a phone call Monday, there's an increased likelihood those guns wind up in the hands of "bad actors."
"Certainly a lot more guns get lost and stolen" when there are just more guns around, Donohue explained. "Travel hubs are a bad idea to be carrying guns anyway," he said, adding that guns, like cell phones and bags, can be lost or left behind in transit.
But if a loaded gun is lost or stolen, the consequences could be deadly.