Nashville gun control advocates for reform, accountability and democracy

On Thursday morning at the Capitol Building in Nashville, Tennessee, lawmakers met a sea of ​​angry, heartbroken and determined young people.

“The energy is palpable — high school students, college students and middle school students across the state are tired of being ignored,” Ezri Tyler, a 19-year-old March for Our Lives student activist, told Mashable.

In addition to continuing calls for gun reform and school safety He screamed all week(Opens in a new tab) – Organized by agitation March 27 Nashville school shooting(Opens in a new tab) It killed three 9-year-olds and three adults – student activists and their allies. Protesting the action of the Tennessee legislature(Opens in a new tab) With Reps. Gloria Johnson, Justin Jones and Justin Pearson.

The three legislators canceled the work of the committee and He faced a Republican majority.(Opens in a new tab)Led by Speaker Cameron Sexton, that might be. Dismissing each of them from office(Opens in a new tab) To break the rules of house conduct. The legislators (dubbed the “Tennessee Three” online) had “No action, no peace!” He sings to the House floor.(Opens in a new tab)Using a bullhorn to amplify the marchers’ call to action.

March For Our Lives, a national student-led advocacy group that has taken over the city’s legislative center, immediately cried foul. “If the mics are being cut when we try to take a stand, we don’t live in a democracy. This is an abuse of power. This is an attack on our democracy,” the organization said. He tweeted.(Opens in a new tab).

And they expanded their gun control march to the name Anti-fascism rally(Opens in a new tab). “We went out and marched on Monday; today we marched for democracy.”

Johnson, Jones and Pearson cried in the building as they waited for the vote with activists:

“Free, free, free. Free Tennessee Three!” “Hey, representatives, listen up: schools are not prisons!” “You ban books. You ban drag. Kids are still in body bags!”

“We’ve had hundreds of people and dozens of students in the rotunda leading the chorus for four hours, and it’s disrupting the room,” Tyler explained. “Now we’ve had Justin Jones, Justin Pearson and Gloria come out, and every time they join us in song – when they’re speaking in the same session, the gallery opens up in song and they can hear us and make it clear. They’re with us.”

Brian Jones, 21, another March for Our Lives activist on the ground in Nashville, said the group won’t let lawmakers distract the public from the cause. “I definitely think this dismissal is political theater, from Most of the moving bills on ‘school safety’ today(Opens in a new tab) Trying to show that it’s not about gun violence. But that’s exactly what this is about. The council is desperate to silence their opponents and detractors, and the students who have been here for four hours have proven ineffective.

National Walks continue to be a big hit.

The week of action began with nearly 7,000 students from Nashville schools marching to the Capitol – allies, teachers, supporting lawmakers and even Another issue is the demonstration of the youth movement of the opposition to each other(Opens in a new tab) – and sparked nationwide protests by student activists on April 5.

A stairwell in the Tennessee Capitol building, a large group of students can be seen descending the stairs.

Credit: John Amis / AFP

Students want action(Opens in a new tab)the student advocacy arm All the city for gun safety(Opens in a new tab)Nashville organized the mass walkout to show lawmakers everywhere that it was part of a national problem — a rallying cry they’ve been clamoring for years.

Zach Mahieh, a 20-year-old student demand activist and head of Nashville’s Vanderbilt University chapter, told Mashable that the mood on the ground in Tennessee is anger and energy.

“I and a lot of people were heartbroken as shooting after shooting continued, but I think that heartbreak turned to anger. I’m upset that all this gun violence happens every day in this country, here in Tennessee. But our lawmakers are doing nothing to stop it.” “Instead of focusing on the issue, people with ulterior motives are putting more guns in people’s hands than focusing on the issue of access to firearms,” ​​said Maieh.

Student activists, including Maaieh, also attended Wednesday’s hearing A law allowing teachers to carry concealed handguns(Opens in a new tab) On campuses, that many say adds more risk and distracts from effective legal options.

“There was no one in favor of the bill. There was a room full of upset, angry and angry people, but they ignored that. They ignored the petitions of students, parents and teachers,” Maaieh said. It shows how frustrating it is to have a legislator who does not work with us even though we are coming to the table and offering solutions.

Emotional students march with red and white signs and hold megaphones.

Credit: Everytown for Gun Safety

Instead of actions that put more guns in public places, advocates for student action like Common Sense want to see actions that prioritize safety and regulate access. Extremely dangerous or red flag rules(Opens in a new tab)For example, develop ways for concerned citizens and law enforcement to intervene when they believe a gun owner may harm themselves or others.

The student demand action also opposes laws such as license-free carry, the manufacture of high-capacity assault weapons and the sale of firearms to youth.

“I want to emphasize that we want to work with anyone who wants to work with us,” Maieh said. “This is something we all agree on. We just need to sit together.”

March envisions a policy agenda that will rewrite our lives “Glorification” of guns, political apathy and corruption(Opens in a new tab) Underlying gun violence, including the arming of government actors and lower levels of gun ownership. Other organizations like Group enough(Opens in a new tab) Seeking to reduce gun violence by addressing systemic issues such as racism, poverty and other environmental issues, with a particular focus on helping communities of color.

While these groups have taken to the streets and legislative buildings in Nashville and beyond, their proposals to address the gun violence epidemic have yet to convince enough representatives to stand up and take meaningful action, activists stress.

“I hope there are national condemnations of Tennessee lawmakers’ actions, more conversations about common gun control and recognition of the importance of this time in Nashville,” Jones said. “Over the past 10 days, people have been coming out by the thousands to protest gun violence. The importance of these demonstrations cannot be overstated. Today, they are basically supporting the representatives who are standing up for their people and opposing the rollback of democratic norms. This action is represented by Speaker Sexton and the House.”

Three protesters, including Manuel Oliver, stand next to each other with signs that read "Students want action" And "Stay away from the gun industry".  They wore black and yellow shirts with a picture of Oliver's son, who was killed in the Parkland shooting.

Credit: Everytown for Gun Safety

Maaieh echoed the thoughts of others on the ground regarding action by Tennessee lawmakers. “This story isn’t necessarily limited to Tennessee. There are other states whose legislatures have actively refused to pass safety legislation. It’s in the headlines, just like Tennessee.”

Although there seems to be a growing need for action, national gun reform advocacy groups are still opposed to the actions of state representatives. Activists like Mahe say that instead of having productive discussions, lawmakers are still crumbling along political (and moral) lines decades later.

Students look through the window holding a sign that says:

Credit: John Amis / AFP

He said, “Many thoughts and prayers, but the prayers should not be forgotten.” “I think we need to really take action against gun violence because God has given us the tools to do it. ‘God doesn’t help those who don’t help themselves.'” God answered those prayers.

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