Nashville school shooting prompts shouting match between congressmen | Nashville school shooting

Amid continuing national grief and anger over the Nashville elementary school shooting, in which three children and three adults were killed, two members of the US House of Representatives got into a shouting match outside the chamber on Wednesday.

While speaking to reporters, Jamaal Bowman, a Democrat from New York and a former school principal, called Republicans “gutless” for refusing to support meaningful gun control reforms.

Thomas Massie, a far-right Republican from Kentucky, overheard Bowman’s comments.

“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!”

In quieter scenes in Nashville, hundreds gathered for a candlelight vigil on Wednesday, in remembrance of those killed two days before.

The victims 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 local lawmakers and religious leaders led prayers and gave condolences to the victims’ families. The first lady, Jill Biden, was in attendance.

“Just two days ago was our city’s worst day,” said the Nashville mayor, John Cooper. “I so wish we weren’t here, but we need to be here.”

Addressing the bereaved, Cooper said: “A grieving city joins you, a grieving country.”

Nashville residents offered somber musical performances. Sheryl Crow sang I Shall Believe and 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 the officers who rushed into the school building on Monday and 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 at the vigil.

“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 Nashville 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 had lived near Sandy Hook elementary when that school, in Connecticut, was attacked in December 2012. Twenty young children and six adults were killed in that shooting.

Law enforcement officials continue to seek to determine a motive for the shooting. 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.

On Monday, police said Hale was transgender. 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 from her parents. Three guns were used in the attack, including an AR-15 rifle.

Drake said the shooting was “calculated”, Hale having created detailed maps that displayed “entry into the school, a route that would be taken for whatever was going to be carried out”. Officials said Hale had weapons training and seemed to be prepared for a confrontation with law enforcement.

As the confrontation between Bowman and Massie showed in dramatic form, the shooting has brought gun control back to the fore in Washington.

Democrats have proposed a bill to boost research into the causes of gun violence. Republicans, who control the US House, have dismissed calls for further reform.

Asked about gun legislation after the shooting, the House speaker, Kevin McCarthy, said: “We want to see all the facts, we need to get the facts.”

Joe Biden has repeatedly called for an assault weapons ban. But the president has also said that he has exhausted his executive powers on the issue.

“I can’t do anything except plead with Congress to act,” he said.

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