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August 21, 2023

Video of the press conference is available HERE.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. –  Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Action, both part of Everytown for Gun Safety’s grassroots network, today held a press conference to call for action on gun safety during the Tennessee state legislature’s special session on public safety. Following the tragic shooting in March at the Covenant School in Nashville, Students Demand Action and Moms Demand Action volunteers mobilized in Nashville, Memphis, and across the nation to demand action on policies like an Extreme Risk law which could have prevented the shooting. Tennessee Governor Bill Lee then called a special session on public safety but the framework he released did not include language to allow for a meaningful Extreme Risk law and lawmakers in the majority have yet to introduce any bills to address gun violence. Lawmakers have, however, introduced multiple bills to arm teachers and put more guns in schools.

At today’s press conference, Shaundelle Brooks, whose son Aklilah Dasilva, was murdered at a Waffle House shooting in Antioch in 2018, Anna Caudill, a dear friend and colleague of Covenant School’s Katherine Koonce who was shot and killed in March, Rabbi Shana Mackler from The Temple in Nashville, and Melissa Joan Hart, actress and Nashville resident, alongside Carol Frazier, Moms Demand Action volunteer, Ibti Cheko and Helena Spigner, volunteers with Students Demand Action, called on lawmakers to do more to protect their constituents to prevent future tragedies. 

“I am tired and weary, but still full of fury. Myself and so many other survivors across Tennessee have found a way to keep going, pushing, and advocating,” said Shaundelle Brooks, a fellow with Everytown Survivor Network. “I will never stop fighting for my children. But lawmakers, it’s time to start fighting for your constituents.” 

“We aren’t asking lawmakers to take away guns from law-abiding citizens. We are asking lawmakers to take steps toward keeping them out of the hands of those who are deemed dangerous – and to help prevent the next tragedy,” said actress, Nashville resident, and mother Melissa Joan Hart. “Everyone can agree we want our kids safe – what our lawmakers have done so far hasn’t worked and it’s time to try it the other way.”

“A message to Republican lawmakers heading into this special session: We won’t accept inaction when it comes to protecting our right to live,” said Helena Spigner, a volunteer with Students Demand Action and a student at Vanderbilt University. “If our cries for our safety aren’t heard, you won’t stop hearing from us. We’ll keep testifying, we’ll keep marching, and we’ll certainly keep voting. If you don’t do your job, we’ll come for your seat next.”

“As we send our kids back to school, we shouldn’t be terrified that they might not come home,” said Leeann Hewlett, a volunteer with the Tennessee chapter of Moms Demand Action. “Our children have been traumatized by lockdown drills, school shootings, and gun violence in their communities. There is no ambiguity, our lawmakers need to step up and make Tennessee safe for everyone.” 

“Punishing children for guns being the number one killer of children is not the answer,” said Anna Caudill, whose close friend and colleague Katherine Koonce was shot and killed at the Covenant School in March. “The citizens of Tennessee have the time to turn their righteous anger into change, and I encourage all of us to take that change to the ballot box.”

“We need straightforward measures to reduce access and increase safety – and that does not involve more guns in the classroom,” said Rabbi Shana Mackler from The Temple in Nashville. “This past Sabbath, we read the words Tzedek Tzedek Tirdof – Justice, Justice shall you pursue. We are here as people of faith of all denominations and traditions and we are doing what we can in the pursuit of Justice. What will you do?”

Tennessee currently has the 12th highest rate of gun deaths in the United States and some of the weakest gun laws in the country. An Extreme Risk law may have prevented the shooting at the Covenant School and saved six lives. Twenty-one states — including Indiana and Florida — have already passed an Extreme Risk law. Guns are the number one killer of children and teens in the U.S. and in Tennessee.

To speak with a Tennessee Moms Demand Action volunteer, please do not hesitate to reach out to [email protected].

If you're a member of the media, please send inquiries to [email protected]