NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — As protestors called for more gun regulations in Tennessee, Republican lawmakers talked about making changes to keep students safe without discussing firearms.
In a letter sent from Lt. Gov McNally to Gov. Bill Lee, McNally wrote, “I believe it is important for us to have a conversation about how to increase and modernize security at schools in Tennessee. Much like the institution of fire codes has decreased the amount of school building fires.”
He specifically mentioned securing windows and glass in school buildings, magnetic locks on doors, centralized camera systems and armed guards.
UCLA Professor of Social Welfare Ron Avi Astor says the debate concerning what to do after these massacres is predictable and wants to see some of the conversation change.
“These are terrorist acts make no doubt about it these aren’t just people with guns shooting,” Astor said.
He said lawmakers typically discuss stricter gun laws, heightened security measures at schools, or increasing the focus on mental health.
That pattern repeated Thursday as Democrat Rep. John Ray Clemmons (D-Nashville) told reporters there need to be more gun regulations because “you can buy an AR out of the trunk of a car in a Kroger parking lot right now.”
House Speaker Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville) mentioned increasing access to mental health resources.
“There are a lot of people who need counseling for different things, so we also have to do a better job at putting these resources in the classroom,” Sexton said.
In addition, House Majority Leader William Lamberth (R-Portland) said he is open to having there be a stronger show of force outside of schools.
“If we have to park a tank outside to make sure our kids are safe in our state right now while we work on everything else, that’s what we ought to do,” he said.
However, Astor warned that increasing security to the point of schools feeling like a fortress or a prison can have long-term consequences for students.
“If you feel like you are in a prison and you feel like you are being surveilled and everywhere you go you might see dogs, or you might see see-through backpacks or you might see police officers coming through the hallway,” Astor said. “You come to one or two conclusions: you’re the target or you’re the potential perpetrator.”
Astor said these arguments just result in people talking past each other rather than coming up with practical solutions.
“There are a lot of people that have guns that actually don’t commit violent acts,” he said. “With mental health, depression, all sorts of an array of different issues most of them are nonviolent.”
He also stressed that there could be better public education on what signs people need to be on the lookout for to prevent peers and loved ones from committing violent acts. Astor explained there are more warning signs that suicidal thoughts and depression.
“They tell a friend they collected gun, not one gun, five, six, seven, 10 guns, almost all of these shooters have arsenals. They are coming up with plans, people hear this, they put it out, they are writing a manifesto, so people know what to look for, actually before you get to the red flag law you could intervene earlier,” Astor said.
He believes most people, including lawmakers, could support someone like The Covenant shooter not having access to a gun.
“If you say, ‘should someone like that have a gun?’ I think you’d get the majority of Republicans and Democrats saying, ‘no,'” he said.
He says that by concentrating on nuance and not polarization, future tragedies can be prevented.