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After school shooting, Tennessee lawmakers not expected to take up gun control in special session

Aug 21, 2023, 11:51 AM

Demonstrators hold hands and encircle the State Capitol in prayer before a special session of the s...

Demonstrators hold hands and encircle the State Capitol in prayer before a special session of the state legislature on public safety Monday, Aug. 21, 2023, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/George Walker IV)
Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

(AP Photo/George Walker IV)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee lawmakers will gavel in Monday for a special session stemming from a shooting at a Nashville elementary school that left six dead, including three young children.

However, even after hundreds of community organizers, families, protesters and many more spent months asking lawmakers to consider passing gun control measures in response to the shooting, the GOP-dominated Statehouse is unexpected to do so.

Instead, Republican leaders are focused on advancing proposals that would toughen penalties for violent criminals, arguing that placing limitations on weapons would do very little to deter those who want to cause harm. Other GOP members have introduced proposals to boost mental health resources and school security measures.

On March 27, a 27-year-old shooter opened fire at a Nashville Christian elementary school and killed six people, including three young students. The shooting contributed to a record pace for mass killings in the U.S. this year and renewed scrutiny over Tennessee’s relaxed gun laws.

Republican Gov. Bill Lee initially pushed lawmakers to pass legislation that would temporarily remove guns from people showing signs of potentially violent behavior. But despite holding hundreds of meetings with lawmakers and policy experts over the summer, Lee recently conceded that he didn’t have the necessary sponsors to introduce the proposal for the special session.

On Monday, at a news conference with Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, actor Melissa Joan Hart detailed how she helped a class of kindergartners fleeing The Covenant School shooting across a highway.

Hart said that she had moved to Nashville from Connecticut and that her kids had attended a school near Sandy Hook Elementary when 26 children were shot and killed there in 2012. She has said her children attend a school next to the private Christian Covenant School.

“I’m standing here before you today, 11 years later, almost a thousand miles away from Fairfield County (in Connecticut). And yet we’re having the same conversation that we did on December 14, 2012, and every day since. Our cries aren’t being heard, and our kids are bearing the burden,” Hart said.

Some opposing changes to gun laws also were holding demonstrations on Monday, including a brief appearance of members of the Proud Boys, the neo-fascist group of self-described “Western chauvinists.” The group unfurled their flag while pro-gun control supporters held a prayer outside the Tennessee Capitol before leaving.

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After school shooting, Tennessee lawmakers not expected to take up gun control in special session