NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Noah, age 5, paused at the microphone before speaking gently, “I don’t want any guns in my school today or ever.”
Sarah Shoop Neumann, his mother, brushed away tears as she held the child. More than four months had passed since a gunman opened fire at random on Noah’s elementary school in Nashville, murdering three of his classmates and three adults. Neumann desired action.
Joining a group of families from The Covenant School, Neumann and others announced on Thursday that they had established two nonprofits to promote school safety and mental health resources, as well as an action fund to advocate for legislative policy changes that would place certain restrictions on firearms in the politically red state of Tennessee.
Neumann told reporters at a news conference, “We can create brighter futures for our state so that no other community must endure suffering.” Furthermore, our children can attend school without dread.
The group’s announcement is the most recent development in the ongoing uncertainty regarding whether the Republican-dominated state of Tennessee will approve meaningful legislation in response to the murder at The Covenant School. While gun control advocates have pushed for stricter regulations on firearms for years, these families hope to make greater progress with conservative lawmakers by emphasizing the need to prevent future tragedies while highlighting their shared religious and political beliefs.
In the coming weeks, parents will gather daily at the state Capitol to pray and confer with legislators.
“As a native Tennessean and a gun owner, I believe it is important to emphasize that we support responsible gun ownership,” said Covenant parent Melissa Alexander. However, I believe it is crucial to intervene when there are distinct indications that something is amiss.
The establishment of the political advocacy fund paves the way for families to solicit donations and lobby legislators on their policy positions. However, the parents maintain that they have no intention of interfering with state elections or endorsing specific candidates. The organization supports removing firearms from individuals who pose a risk to themselves or others, as well as fortifying firearm storage regulations and enhancing background checks.
Governor Lee’s Firearm Restrictions Face Legislative Resistance
To date, Republican legislators have resisted Republican Governor Bill Lee’s demands to enact legislation that would restrict access to firearms for dangerous individuals. The Legislature initially rejected Lee’s attempt to approve the legislation in the spring, compelling the governor to announce he will convene a special legislative session in August to reconsider his proposal and others.
Instead, the Republican supermajority has largely advocated for the need to increase school security, and many have pledged to scuttle any legislation that would resemble “red flag” laws enacted by other states in response to school shootings.Lee insists that his proposal is not a red flag law, which he characterizes as a “toxic political label.”
Currently, 19 states have red flag laws, with many legislators enacting them in response to catastrophes. Notably, Florida did so after the 2018 massacre that murdered 17 students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. Authorities had received numerous complaints regarding the 19-year-old shooter’s menacing statements.
Under Lee’s proposal, law enforcement would first determine whether a person poses a threat, and then, within three to five days, hold a hearing with that individual. A judge would determine whether or not their firearms should be provisionally confiscated. If so, the individual would be required to turn over their firearms and ammunition to a third party within two days, and their license to carry a handgun would be suspended within three business days. The duration of each action would be up to 180 days. The special session will begin on August 21.