NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Thousands have turned up at the Tennessee State Capitol Thursday morning to face lawmakers as they started the legislative session at 9 a.m.
Parents with their children and other community members said they’re rallying to support stricter gun control in the wake of the Covenant School shooting that left six people dead, including three children and three adults.
“We’re here because we still believe that we can make change. We can. It’s a tough state, I get it,” said the organizer Maryam Abolfazli, a “simple mama” who said she refuses to accept “irrational policy making.”
Instead of chanting, Abolfazli plans for them to sing. “Stand up, stand up for your rights.”
The group of protestors reportedly outnumber the available seats in the Capitol rotunda. The group filled the hallways and steps of the Capitol building.
For the first time since the shooting, Republican leaders answered questions from reporters.
“Even if we had the California, most restrictive ban on weapons in the country, when you have someone that’s willing to die and kill other people you cannot stop them,” said Speaker of the House Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville).
News 2’s Chris O’Brien asked, what do they think is the answer to stopping school shootings.
“I guess there are two parts to it. One is school security and the other is individual mental health,” answered Lt. Gov. Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge).
Notably absent from the conversation, guns.
As the state continues to respond to the horrific tragedy, the rift between Republicans and Democrats grows.
“We believe in people’s rights, but we also believe the safety of our children and families are of the most importance and should be everybody’s priority, and we need to put common sense regulations and laws into place to better protect communities,” said Rep. John Ray Clemmons (D-Nashville).
“And there are ways that we can do that,” Rep. Clemmons continued.
Democrats blasted Republicans for the response saying there’s a need for tighter gun legislation.
“I only firearms. I’ve been a lifelong hunter. Other members of my caucus owns firearms. We’re not asking to take away anybody’s guns or violate the Second Amendment. We’re asking for common sense,” added Rep. Clemmons.
Protesters formed a tunnel outside the House chamber, forcing lawmakers to walk through them. Though at least one lawmaker told News 2 it doesn’t change their opinions.
“You’re not being heard. You’re just creating pink noise that is getting drowned out. I don’t think any legislature hears, regardless if you’re on the right or the left. If you’re going to stand and act a fool, you’re not going to be heard,” said Rep. Jeremy Faison (R-Cosby).
📲 Download the News 2 app to stay updated on the go.
📧 Sign up for WKRN email alerts to have breaking news sent to your inbox.
💻 Find today’s top stories on WKRN.com for Nashville, TN and all of Middle Tennessee.
This is a developing story. WKRN News 2 will continue to update this article as new information becomes available.