The deadly school shooting that killed three children and three adults in Nashville, Tennessee, has sparked renewed debate over gun laws and protests at the Tennessee State Capitol.
Hundreds gathered at Legislative Plaza on Thursday and marched to the Capitol in Nashville to address the Republican-led legislature. About 200 people managed to pass through security and rally in the rotunda outside the chambers for state representatives.
At one point, demonstrators in the rotunda silently held up six fingers, representing the six victims killed Monday when Audrey Hale, 28, walked into the Covenant School, a private Presbyterian school, and opened fire. Hale, a former student at the school, was later shot dead.
Some of the chants included: “This is what democracy looks like," "Protect our kids" and “Ban assault weapons.”
Tennessee Democratic State Representative Bob Freeman urged his colleagues inside the chamber to take action.
“They're out there right now, they're begging for us to do something," said Freeman, who represents the district where the Covenant School is located.
Republican U.S. Senators Marsha Blackburn and Bill Hagerty said Thursday that they would introduce a measure known as the SAFE School Act to help public and private schools train military veterans and former law enforcement officers for added security. Blackburn introduced similar legislation in the last Congress.
A citywide vigil for the victims took place Wednesday night in downtown Nashville, with hundreds attending. Speakers at the event included Nashville Mayor John Cooper, Metropolitan Nashville Police Department Chief John Drake and Metro Council Member Russ Pulley. First lady Jill Biden was in attendance. Musical acts included singers Sheryl Crow, Margo Price and Ketch Secor of Old Crow Medicine Show.
“Just two days ago was our city’s worst day,” Cooper said at the vigil. “I so wish we weren’t here, but we need to be here.”
There was no talk of politics by the speakers of the vigil. Republicans and Democratic lawmakers stood together in asking for remembrance of the six who died rather than focusing on the politics.
Absent from the vigil was Republican Tennessee Governor Bill Lee, who has been clear on his views of supporting less restrictive gun laws and greater school security.
Cynthia Peak, one of the victims of the shooting, was a close friend of Lee’s wife, Maria, and the two had been planning to meet for dinner on Monday, according to Lee.
“Maria woke up this morning without one of her best friends,” Lee said in a video statement released on Tuesday. He has avoided public appearances this week and has not proposed any possible steps his administration might take in response to the shooting.
Other Tennessee Republican leaders have avoided calling for tighter gun restrictions and instead have thrown their support behind adding more school security measures, such as securing windows and glass in school buildings, adding magnetic locks on doors, updating camera systems and increasing armed guards.
Some information for this report came from The Associated Press and Reuters.