NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — A recent Vanderbilt Child Health Poll surveying parents about firearms and school safety has some calling on elected officials to reconsider certain gun legislation.
Five years ago, Middle Tennessee mom Kari Kuefler was in Las Vegas with her 3-month-old son, working at the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival. She still remembers the moments that would make her a mass shooting survivor.
“I saw gunshots that were hitting the ground in front of me on the outside of the fence, kind of kicking up dust,” Kuefler recalled. “At that point I did not have my son. I found my son within the production office, we hid under a table, not knowing if gunfire was coming from the street level, from within the festival grounds.”
It’s a moment she now thinks about as her three children attend school
“A school should be a safe zone, a place that we are putting our kids into for growth and health and learning,” Kuefler said.
She and others with the Southern Christian Coalition have growing concerns about guns in schools, highlighted by the poll recently released by the Vanderbilt University Medical Center.
“A childhood friend of mine was a teacher at one of the schools in Kentucky where this happened, and when it happens that close you have that little question that’s always there about what is going on in our country that this keeps happening,” said Jason Mikel, a pastor in Nolensville.
Poll results found parents feel safer when background checks are required in all gun sales. In addition, more than half supported restricting access to guns for people deemed a risk to themselves or others, as well as laws requiring the safe storage of guns.
However, of the more than two dozen gun bills before lawmakers this session, Kuefler and Mikel told News 2 that several raise concerns.
“We’ve divided ourselves so deeply that moderation has left,” Mikel said.
The mother and the pastor would like to have a conversation about certain bills, including one proposing to lower the handgun carry age to 18, and another that would allow schools to arm employees.
“Then we would have the opportunity to moderate some of these laws that are coming out that I think are just detrimental and horrific to our society. We can’t add violence to violence and win,” Mikel explained.
After experiencing a mass shooting first hand, Kuefler feels keeping guns out of the wrong hands is important both in schools and everywhere else.
“Now we have to worry about churches, parades, gyms… everything has become a worry spot,” Kuefler said. “With extending these permitless carries and not instating red flag laws, those sanctuaries, those safe zones become critical concerns.”
The four other concerns parents listed in the Vanderbilt Child Health Poll were education and school quality, child mental health and suicide, bullying and cyberbullying, and drug and alcohol use.