NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Amid the protests, chaos and calls for action at the Tennessee State Capitol, a Zoom call featuring Nashville Mayor John Cooper was held to focus on gun laws.
The call featured Cooper, along with representatives from Moms Demand Action and Everytown for Gun Safety.
Within days of the shooting at The Covenant School, the message and outrage became clear.
“They didn’t deserve to have their lives cut short, their classmates and teachers didn’t deserve to endure the trauma of watching them be killed. Students and educators across Tennessee deserve to be protected from anything like this from ever happening again,” said Zack Maaiah, a Vanderbilt University student and a Student Demand Action leader.
Throughout the week, thousands have stepped outside of their school doors in protest. Across the nation, including here in Tennessee, teachers and students have stood and marched in hopes of putting a focus on gun laws.
Thursday afternoon, the open discussion was focused on preventing school shootings.
“The school teachers many of whom were risking their lives in kind of safety protocols, in a very dangerous situation, they all deserve answers as to how do we improve to have a safer society,” said Cooper. “It’s a shocking thing that our schools have to spend all this time not on instruction but on safety drills.”
“Red flag” laws have now been put on the table as a possibility in Nashville. It’s a similar case to what happened after the 2018 Parkland Florida shooting.
“I was 15 years old when a shooter walked in Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Valentine’s Day and massacred 17 of my classmates, friends and teachers with an assault rifle,” said Sari Kaufman, who survived the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Shooting.
Currently, 19 states have adopted “red flag” laws, but John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety, said, “It’s time for Tennessee to join that list.”
“Here in Tennessee we do have some of the weakest gun laws in the country, which means, the answer to too many guns just can’t be more guns,” said Cooper.
During the conference, the mayor was asked directly, if he believes “red flag” laws could be passed in Tennessee, a state that has had a record of passing weak gun laws.
“I’m cautiously optimistic. I think Senior Leadership and the legislature have shown an openness and I think the most recent support by both Republican and Democratic leadership executives in the state, shows that there’s a path and there has to be a better answer than no answer. Silence on the subject is just not acceptable,” Cooper responded.
Following the Parkland shooting, Florida adopted several laws in an effort to limit gun violence, including increasing the age of gun sales from 18 to 21.
“All of us have grown up living in a constant state of fear wondering if our school might be the next one to make headlines if our community will be the next one to join the never-ending list,” said Maaiah.
The Parkland shooting prompted “red flag” laws, allowing law enforcement agencies and citizens to file “risk protection orders” against people who might be a threat and take away their guns.
“In the months leading up to the shooting, the shooter was deeply disturbed and her loved ones knew it. Her parents didn’t think she was stable enough to own guns, and her friends were worried about the messages she was sending them,” said Feinblatt.
During Thursday’s protest, House lawmakers passed a sweeping school safety bill. The legislation laid out requirements for schools, their buildings and appointed safety officials. It makes it law to have outer doors locked at schools and requires schools to conduct armed intruder drills while having a threat assessment team in place.
“Our leaders, including lawmakers in Tennessee, must act and follow the example of those working to honor survivors with action. We cannot wait around for the next tragedy, the next Stoneman Douglas, or the next Covenant School,” said Kaufman.
The legislation passed on Thursday also details a state-level safety team responsible for regularly reviewing safety measures at schools.
On the Senate side, a committee will hear the bill next week.