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Nashville Mourns 6 Killed in 129th U.S. Mass Shooting This Year, After Tennessee Loosens Gun Laws

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Nashville is in mourning after a gunman killed six people at a private Christian elementary school Monday before being killed by police. The victims were three adults who worked at the school and three 9-year-old students. Police identified the shooter as 28-year-old Audrey Hale, a former student, who entered the school through a side door armed with two assault-style weapons and a handgun. The shooter had written a manifesto laying out plans for the attack that included maps of the building, but no motive has been established. Monday’s massacre was the 129th mass shooting in the United States this year alone, including 13 school shootings. “People here are still just in shock,” says Holly McCall, the editor-in-chief of the Tennessee Lookout. “It’s just not difficult at all in Tennessee to get any type of weapon. Over the last six or seven years, we’ve seen the Legislature increasingly passing laws that even law enforcement officials and law enforcement organizations oppose.”

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González.

Nashville, Tennessee, is mourning, after six people were killed in a shooting Monday at a private Christian elementary school. All three students shot and killed were 9 years old. They were identified as Evelyn Dieckhaus, Hallie Scruggs and William Kinney. The adults killed in the mass shooting were identified as Katherine Koonce, the head of the school; Cynthia Peak, a substitute teacher; and Mike Hill, a custodian who had worked at the school for 13 years.

Police say the shooter was armed with two assault-style weapons and a handgun and shot their way through a side door to enter the school, before being killed by police. Officials say the shooter was a former student at the school and had written a manifesto laying out plans for the attack that included maps of the building.

A live Fox News report in Nashville about the shooting was interrupted by Ashbey Beasley, a gun control advocate and survivor of the July 4th, 2022, mass shooting in Highland Park, Illinois.

ASHBEY BEASLEY: Aren’t you guys tired of covering this? Aren’t you guys tired of being here and having to cover all of these mass shootings? I’m from Highland Park, Illinois. My son and I survived a mass shooting over the summer. I am in Tennessee on a family vacation with my son, visiting my sister-in-law. I have been lobbying in D.C. since we survived a mass shooting in July. I have met with over 130 lawmakers. How is this still happening? How are our children still dying, and why are we failing them? Gun violence is the number one killer of children and teens. It has overtaken cars.”

AMY GOODMAN: Monday’s attack marked the 129th mass shooting in United States this year alone, including 13 school shootings. At the White House, President Biden once again called on Congress to pass an assault weapons ban.

For more, we go to Nashville, Tennessee, where we’re joined by Holly McCall, editor-in-chief of the Tennessee Lookout.

Holly, welcome to Democracy Now! Describe what’s happening and what you understand at this point, the horror of the mass shooting at this private Christian school.

HOLLY McCALL: Well, America sees a lot of mass shootings, but I think to residents in the city where they occur, it doesn’t matter what’s happened in other cities. And Nashville is still, in many ways, a small enough city that people know each other. They have some connection to the school. And so, there was just shock yesterday morning when the news started to come in very quickly that there was a large police presence in the Green Hills area of Nashville. It’s an affluent area of town with several private schools.

And, you know, details are still emerging. You did a very good job of encapsulating what we know right now, but, yes, this was a former student. Why exactly they targeted the school — we know that they went there. We haven’t seen the manifesto yet. And honestly, I think people here are still just in shock. And it’s not even our first mass shooting. We had one less than five years ago at a Waffle House that, you know, was responsible for killing five people.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Holly, what do we know so far on how the mass shooter obtained the two assault rifles and handguns? And could you talk a little bit about the legislation that’s been passed in Tennessee recently on guns?

HOLLY McCALL: Yes. So, according to the Metro Nashville Police Department, the shooter had three weapons with them at the time of the shooting, two semiautomatic rifles. They do appear to be obtained illegally. They also had a handgun. And then, at their home, police later found two sawed-off shotguns and another weapon.

But, you know, it’s just not difficult at all in Tennessee to get any type of weapon. Over the last six or seven years, we’ve seen the Legislature increasingly passing laws that even law enforcement officials and law enforcement organizations oppose. The Department of Safety and Homeland Security in Tennessee oppose a bill that is in the Legislature right now to drop open carry to 18. It’s been 21. In the House, the bill says that you can carry long guns at the age of 18. Technically, you can walk down the hall of the legislative building with a long gun. The Senate dropped that provision, but I don’t know what’s going to happen in the House. So, that’s one thing.

We have lawmakers who said the Department of Homeland Security have no constitutional right to protest the bill, even though these law enforcement officers are the ones on the street dealing with this. Last year, the Legislature, with the governor’s full support, passed a permitless carry bill. You don’t even need so much as a permit to get a weapon in Tennessee. You know, we’ve got a handgun — we’ve got weapons companies that are moving to Tennessee. The governor went out of his way last year to sign the law, the permitless carry law, in a Beretta factory, in a Beretta office that’s moved to Tennessee. And it’s just — it’s bizarre to me that there are so many lawmakers here who can only talk about the Second Amendment. I bet they couldn’t even name what goes on in many of the other amendments, but this is the one they are focused on.

AMY GOODMAN: Police have said the Nashville school shooter is named Audrey Hale and identified as transgender using male pronouns. Police said the motive for the attack, though, remains unclear. Just before the attack, Hale messaged a friend, saying they would die by suicide, writing, quote, “One day this will make more sense. I’ve left behind more than enough evidence. But something bad is about to happen.” The person that they messaged called police immediately.

Hale once attended the school, which was run by the Covenant Presbyterian Church. The New York Times reports the church is affiliated with the theologically conservative Presbyterian Church in America, whose 2020 report on gender and sexuality notes, quote, “the sinfulness of homosexual and transgender desire as well as conduct,” unquote. So, this is Police Chief John Drake being questioned by NBC’s Lester Holt Monday night.

LESTER HOLT: So, you’ve also said that Hale identified as trans. Do you believe there is a connection to that?

POLICE CHIEF JOHN DRAKE: We feel that she identified as trans, but we’re still in the initial investigation into all of that and if it actually played a role into this incident.

AMY GOODMAN: This has set social media ablaze. The far-right conservative Congressmember Marjorie Taylor Greene drew outrage when she tweeted in response to the shooting, quote, “How much hormones like testosterone and medications for mental illness was the transgender Nashville school shooter taking? Everyone can stop blaming guns now,” Marjorie Taylor Greene said. To this, New York Congressmember Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez responded, quote, “It’s absolutely disgusting and she should be looking into a mirror as to why she’s defending and posing with the same weapons that are being used to kill children, teachers & educators,” Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez told The Independent. We just have a minute left, Holly McCall. If you can respond to what is developing right now and the mourning of the overall community?

HOLLY McCALL: Yeah, we’re trying to figure out what our next steps are. I will comment on your last remark. It is absurd to imply that this person committed these shootings because they were potentially transgender. That was first reported, by the way, on social media by a right-wing poster. It does seem to be that this person was — did identify as male, but law enforcement says — law enforcement sources who have read the manifesto says that does not appear to play a role in the motive.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, Holly McCall, we want to thank you very much for being with us, editor-in-chief of the Tennessee Lookout, speaking to us from Nashville.

Next up, we continue our remembrance of the human rights advocate and attorney Randall Robinson, who died this weekend at the age of 81. Stay with us.

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