Amid national grief and anger over the Nashville elementary school shooting in which three children and three adults were killed, members of Congress clashed angrily in Washington while protesters demanded action in Tennessee.
In Washington, while speaking to reporters on Wednesday evening, Jamaal Bowman, a Democrat from New York and a former school principal, called Republicans “gutless” for refusing to support meaningful gun control reform.
Thomas Massie, a far-right Republican from Kentucky, overheard.
“What are you talking about?” he asked, adding: “There’s never been a school shooting in a school that allows teachers to carry guns.”
Massie is one of many Republicans to have released, often as holiday cards, images of family members holding assault weapons.
Bowman responded: “Carry guns? More guns lead to more death. Look at the data. You’re not looking at any data.”
The New Yorker told the Kentuckian states with open-carry laws have more gun deaths. Massie told Bowman to calm down.
“Calm down?” Bowman asked. “Children are dying!”
Elsewhere in the Capitol, Jared Moskowitz, a Florida Democrat, responded angrily to Marjorie Taylor Greene, after the far-right Georgia Republican advocated that teachers be armed.
Moskowitz said: “You know, there are six people that are dead in that school including three children because you guys got rid of the assault weapons ban. Because you guys made it easy for people who … are mentally incapable of having weapons of war, being able to buy those weapons and go into schools.
“… Did the good guys with the guns stop six people from getting murdered? No. But you know what? AR-15s, you’ve seen what those bullets do to children. You know why you don’t hunt with an AR-15, with a deer? Because there’s nothing left. And there’s nothing left of these kids when people go into school and murder them while they’re trying to read.
“You guys are worried about banning books? Dead kids can’t read.”
On Thursday there were angry scenes in Nashville, as protesters gathered at the state capitol while the Republican-dominated legislature took up work for the first time since the shooting.
Chants of “Save our children!” echoed in hallways between the senate and house chambers, with protesters inside and outside the building. Some filled the senate gallery, including children who held signs reading “I’m nine”. Most were removed after some began yelling: “Children are dead!”
There were quieter scenes on Wednesday night, at a candlelight vigil.
The victims at the Covenant School were Evelyn Dieckhaus, Hallie Scruggs and William Kinney, all nine years old; Katherine Koonce, the head of the school, who was 60; Cynthia Peake, a substitute teacher who was 61; and Mike Hill, the school custodian, who was also 61.
Speakers including lawmakers and religious leaders led prayers and gave condolences. The first lady, Jill Biden, was there. The Republican governor of Tennessee, Bill Lee, was not.
Nashville residents offered musical performances. Sheryl Crow, who has called for gun control reform, sang I Shall Believe. Margo Price performed Tears of Rage. Ketch Sector, of Old Crow Medicine Show, performed Will the Circle Be Unbroken?
The Nashville police chief, John Drake, expressed gratitude to officers who killed the shooter.
“Many of us hoped and prayed these evil acts we saw would never happen in Nashville,” Drake said.
Shaundelle Brooks, whose 23-year-old son was a victim of a shooting at a Nashville Waffle House in 2018, was present.
“I know what it’s like to be a parent – what it feels like, like you’re drowning and can’t move, and that weakness and that hole that comes in your stomach,” she told the Associated Press.
Another parent, the actor Melissa Joan Hart, said in an Instagram message she and her husband helped kindergartners to safety on Monday.
“We helped all these tiny little, little kids cross the road and get their teachers over there,” Hart said, fighting tears.
Hart, 46, also said her family lived near Sandy Hook elementary when that school, in Connecticut, was attacked in December 2012. Twenty young children and six adults were killed then.
In Nashville, officials continue to seek a motive. The 28-year-old shooter, Audrey Hale, was a former student of the Covenant School. Police said the school reported no issues when Hale was a student.
Police said Hale was a transgender person. On Tuesday, Drake said Hale had been put under a doctor’s care for an “emotional disorder” but police had not been contacted. He also said Hale purchased seven guns and hid them. Three guns were used in the attack. Drake has said the shooting was “calculated”. Officials have said Hale had weapons training and seemed to be prepared to face law enforcement.
On Thursday, authorities released 911 calls that captured the terror inside the school. Callers pleaded for help in hushed voices as sirens, crying and gunfire were heard.
One caller told a dispatcher she could hear gunshots as she hid in a closet. The caller noted a pause in the shots. The dispatcher said two other callers had reported shots at the school.
“I think so,” the caller said, as children could be heard in the background. The caller said she could hear more shots. Muffled thuds could be heard.
“I’m hearing more shots,” the caller said. “Please hurry.”
Another caller said: “I think we have a shooter at our church … I’m on the second floor in a room. I think the shooter is on the second floor.”
Another man said he was with a group including several children and they were walking away from the school. The tension and confusion were obvious, adults speaking over each other, with children in the background.
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