More than a thousand students rallied at the Tennessee state Capitol Thursday to demand gun control, just days after a mass shooting at a Nashville Christian elementary school where three adults and three 9-year-olds were killed. Republicans hold a supermajority in Tennessee’s Legislature and have loosened gun restrictions. We speak with Dr. Katrina Green, an emergency physician in Nashville who has lost patients to gun violence and joined in Thursday’s protest. “People are angry, and that’s part of the reason I went down there, as well,” says Green. “Tennessee has become a state where it just seems like they want everybody to have a gun, no matter what.”
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, as we turn to Nashville, Tennessee, where funeral services begin today for the three 9-year-old children killed in a mass shooting at The Covenant School Monday along with three adults. This comes as a dramatic scene unfolded Thursday as more than a thousand students flooded the Tennessee state Capitol in downtown Nashville to call for gun control.
ALY GOTETINGER: I heard that the shooter at the school this Monday obtained all of their weapons legally. And now they’re trying to pass concealed carry so that teenagers can carry guns. And I do not think that it makes the problem better, arming more people.
AMY GOODMAN: Joining the students were teachers, parents and grandparents. This is Debbie Wilbur.
DEBBIE WILBUR: It was important for me to be here today because I have children, I have grandchildren, and I am looking out for my future grandchildren. And we just don’t have a government here in Tennessee that’s willing to do anything about gun laws. And no one, in my opinion, needs an AR-15. I think all weapons like that, assault weapons, should be banned. The only person that should be carrying assault weapons is the military.
AMY GOODMAN: Protesters also lined the halls inside the state Capitol as Tennessee Highway Patrol members escorted lawmakers to the House chamber.
PROTESTER 1: He didn’t do anything!
PROTESTER 2: You like dead children?
PROTESTER 3: Come on!
PROTESTER 2: Do you like dead children?
HIGHWAY PATROL MEMBER: Get out of the way!
AMY GOODMAN: As chants rang out in the halls, two freshman state Democratic lawmakers used a bullhorn on the chamber floor to interrupt the session underway and call on their colleagues to address gun safety. Republicans hold a supermajority in Tennessee’s Legislature, have loosened gun restrictions. Republican Governor Bill Lee signed a permitless carry bill into law at Beretta gun factory, and state lawmakers failed to pass a red flag law that may have prevented the shooter from legally acquiring three of the guns used in Monday’s attack, because they had reportedly been under doctor’s care for an emotional disorder.
Tennessee Republicans are now considering measures to further deregulate gun laws. One bill would let people as young as 18 carry rifles and shotguns in public without a permit. Another would allow education workers to carry concealed handguns on school grounds with a permit.
A recently resurfaced 2021 Christmas card from Republican Tennessee Congressmember Andy Ogles, who represents the district where Covenant School is located in Nashville, shows him posing with his wife and children all holding their long guns — their Christmas card. This was Ogles’ fellow Tennessee Republican Congressmember Tim Burchett’s response to Monday’s shooting.
REP. TIM BURCHETT: It’s a horrible, horrible situation. And we’re not going to fix it. Criminals are going to be criminals. And my daddy fought in the Second World War, fought in the Pacific, fought the Japanese. And he told me, he said, “Buddy,” he said, “if somebody wants to take you out, and doesn’t mind losing their life, there’s not a whole heck of a lot you can do about it.”
AMY GOODMAN: For more on what could be done, we’re joined by Dr. Katrina Green, emergency physician in Nashville who has lost patients to gun violence. She joined in the protest at the Tennessee Capitol to call for gun reform yesterday.
Thank you are joining us after working a night shift. Talk about the protest and what you’re demanding. And also talk about what assault weapons mean when someone is shot by one.
DR. KATRINA GREEN: Thank you so much for having me.
So, yesterday was a tough day for a lot of us. This has been a tough week in Nashville. But it was really encouraging to see how many people showed up at the state Capitol yesterday, especially the young people. And the mood in the crowd was mixed. There was a lot of grief. I saw many folks in tears. But mostly people are angry. And that’s part of the reason why I went down there, as well, because I’m angry.
I am an emergency physician. I have worked at trauma centers here in Nashville and have trained in trauma centers in both Detroit and Indianapolis. And I’ve treated, at this point in my 10-year career, you know, countless gun violence victims. And it’s very tough to treat those injuries in the emergency department, because it’s not just the injury from the direct penetration of the bullet, it’s also the reverberation and the ricochet that happens as the bullet passes through the body. So, the bullet shot from a high-capacity weapon like an AR-15 doesn’t just go through and through; it shatters everything that it passes by as it enters and exits the body. So we see devastating injuries. And most oftentimes, these people are dead by the time they reach us. And we do our best, but we lose way too many patients to gun violence.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about the Republican Governor Bill Lee signing off on deregulating guns in a Beretta gun factory?
DR. KATRINA GREEN: Yeah, the optics of that were just infuriating. Tennessee has become a state where it just seems like they want everybody to have a gun, no matter what. And so, signing that bill in a gun factory basically signals that they are siding with the gun lobby and the gun manufacturers, and they really don’t care how many people in Tennessee get hurt and die as a result of this guns-for-all policy that they’re advocating for.
AMY GOODMAN: The first funeral is being held today for a little girl, a 9-year-old who loved pink, and they’re asking everyone to wear pink to the funeral. She loved bright colors, Evelyn Dieckhaus. Can you talk about the response of Nashville, of the whole community? And how prevalent is your demand for gun control?
DR. KATRINA GREEN: So, the response from the community has been an outpouring of love and togetherness and the sense of community. You know, that’s kind of the Nashville way. We’ve been through a lot in the last few years. We’ve had a tornado. We’ve gone through the same pandemic everyone else has gone through. We had a bombing downtown on Christmas Day. I believe that was in 2020, as well. And our community is very good at coming together and supporting those in need in times of need. And that’s what’s happened this week. We’ve seen vigils. We’ve seen outpourings of donations to that school and GoFundMes of the families to help them bury these children.
I myself have a nephew that’s 9 years old, the same age as these children. And I just cannot imagine what these families are going through. And so I wholeheartedly support them and just want them to know that they are loved and we are all devastated by the loss that they are feeling.
AMY GOODMAN: I mean, talking about this hitting close to home, the governor who signed the deregulation of guns in a gun factory, on Monday night, his wife, Tennessee’s first lady Maria Lee, “was set to have dinner with one of her best friends, Cindy Peak, an old colleague from her teacher days who planned to spend the day as a substitute teacher at The Covenant School. But Peak never arrived home on Monday. The 61-year-old woman was one of six victims slain in [one of] the deadliest school shooting[s] in Tennessee history. 'What happened at Covenant School was a tragedy beyond comprehension,' Gov. [Bill] Lee said in a recorded address Tuesday night, his first extended comments on the shooting.” I was reading from The Tennesseean newspaper, Dr. Green.
DR. KATRINA GREEN: Yeah. So, you know, I watched that video, as well, and I felt very disappointed in that being his response to the shooting. He did not, as far as I know, go down and visit the school to comfort those families. But I know there were state lawmakers who were there in the church across the street — there was the reunification center — holding hands of families that were waiting for word about whether their loved ones were alive or coming home.
And, yeah, for Governor Lee’s wife to be so closely tied to the school and for him to not even show up, I mean, there’s a reason why the crowd was chanting “cowards” yesterday, because that’s what we all feel collectively as a city, that we’re the capital city. You know, he is here doing — conducting his business. He lives in Franklin, which is a suburb just south of here. Why doesn’t he show up? Why isn’t he in our community? I do not see a lot of leadership coming from our governor. What I see is a failure of leadership.
AMY GOODMAN: You’ve written a lot of commentary, Dr. Katrina Green, about the fight for reproductive rights in Tennessee, where there was an attempt to criminalize doctors who performed abortions to save the life of a pregnant person. What are your thoughts, seeing so much being done to curb reproductive rights, but nothing being done for gun safety?
DR. KATRINA GREEN: I think it just shows you where the priorities of our state leaders are. They care more about protecting potential life in a womb than they do about protecting children, who were alive and living and breathing and attending schools. I do not see any concern or care for protecting precious life that is already present in our community. And that is, I think, the definition of hypocrisy. I am angry at the fact that reproductive rights have been taken away, but I’m more angry at the fact that they won’t protect life when it’s already born. I just — I don’t know what else we can do to get through to these people. Pro-life is not pro-AR-15. Pro-life is not, you know, lax gun laws. If you want to protect children, keep guns out of the hands of folks who would do them harm. Do everything possible to protect them by making it harder for folks to commit these atrocities.
You know, we don’t even have a red flag law in Tennessee, which would have prevented the person who committed these acts from purchasing at least some of these weapons, and might have been able to get that person better help for the mental distress that you assume would cause someone to commit a horrible act like that. The most commonsense thing to me would be to institute a red flag law, so that we can disarm folks who are going through a mental crisis, and not just folks who are having homicidal thoughts, but suicidal thoughts. We lose so many Tennesseans to gun suicides every year, as well. And I’ve been present in those emergency rooms, as well, and it is very hard to treat those, and those families are in a rough way, as well.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, Dr. Katrina Green, we thank you so much for being with us. Our condolences for your whole community. Dr. Green is an emergency physician in Nashville, Tennessee, who joined in the protest at the Tennessee Capitol Thursday with another thousand people calling for gun control.