Protesters demand action on guns at Tennessee statehouse

This week a shooter entered Nashville's The Covenant School and killed three children and three adults

Protesters inside the Tennessee State Capitol in Nashville on March 30 call for an end to gun violence and stronger laws. AFP
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Protesters flooded Tennessee's statehouse on Thursday to demand that politicians toughen gun laws after a school shooting in Nashville that left six people dead, three of them nine-year-old children.

More than 1,000 people joined the protest organised by local mothers, packing the building's rotunda and forcing motorway patrol police to clear paths in the crowd for legislators to walk through.

Demonstrators held aloft placards reading "No more silence" and "We have to do better" while chanting "Do you even care?" and "No more violence".

One mother — S'Kaila Colbert, holding her infant daughter — told MSNBC that her love of Christ called her to protest.

"To be a voice for the children, to prioritise their safety, I felt a duty to be here," Ms Colbert said.

Demonstrators demand gun safety action at Tennessee statehouse

Demonstrators demand gun safety action at Tennessee statehouse

There have been 90 US school shootings this year, according to the K-12 School Shooting Database website founded by researcher David Riedman.

The 303 incidents last year were the most of any year in the database, which began in 1970.

In the latest incident, the shooter killed three pupils and three staff members at Nashville's The Covenant School.

Police responded and killed the assailant, 28, a former pupil at the primary school. A motive for the shooting was as yet unclear.

Republicans in Tennessee this week delayed hearings on gun legislation that would increase access to firearms.

The state in recent years has made it easier to acquire firearms and done away with the need for permits to carry concealed handguns.

State Representative Bob Freeman, a Democrat representing Nashville, on Thursday addressed the House chambers, calling for "common-sense" gun reforms including background checks and red-flag laws to stop those who show signs of being a threat to themselves or others possessing firearms.

Mr Freeman told his colleagues they had to respond to demonstrators whose chants could be heard outside the chambers.

"They're out there right now. They're begging for us to do something," he said, according to The Tennessean newspaper.

John Drake, the Nashville police chief, said the shooter's writings suggested plans to carry out shootings at other locations. Police said the shooter left behind a manifesto related to the attack.

The shooter was armed with two assault-style weapons and a 9mm handgun, which police later found were among seven firearms the assailant had legally bought in recent years.

The shooter's six victims at the school, which is housed in the Covenant Presbyterian Church and has about 200 pupils from pre-kindergarten to sixth grade, were killed at random, police said.

The first funeral for one of the victims — nine-year-old Hallie Scruggs, whose father Chad is a senior pastor at the church — will be held on Saturday, the school said on Thursday.

The family asked that it be closed to the public and media.

Updated: March 30, 2023, 11:13 PM