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Editor’s note: This story includes descriptions of transphobia and mass shootings.
On Monday afternoon, an active shooter brutally attacked the Covenant Middle School in Nashville, Tennessee. Seven people, including the perpetrator, were killed. Among the victims of the shooting were three students and three faculty members of the school.
According to NBC, Audrey Elizabeth Hale, the perpetrator of the shooting, legally purchased seven firearms from five separate gun shops before the attack, three of which were used against the students and faculty of the Covenant School. Two of these were semi-automatic “assault” weapons that Tennessee lawmakers recently loosened restrictions on.
According to the National Gun Violence Archive, Monday’s shooting marks the 130th mass shooting in the United States this year, with over 10,000 deaths attributed to gun violence as a whole. Amid senseless tragedy, such statistics seem incomprehensible.
As the nation reels from yet another mass shooting, lawmakers have revived the age-old debate over the cause of such horrendous events. After it was revealed that Hale was a transgender male, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene took to Twitter, speculating it was “testosterone” and “mental illness” that were the consequential factors in the Covenant Shooting, and that “everyone can stop blaming guns now.”
If lawmakers truly believed there is a mental health crisis in America, then certainly they would support bills to address the issue. But when such a bill landed on the House floor to increase mental health resources in schools, only one Republican representative voted in favor of it.
Republicans instead have decided to target the trans community for the abhorrent actions of a single individual — aptly ignoring that 98% of mass shootings are carried out by cisgender men — and subject them to further discrimination and malice. This would only increase the discrimination endured by those in the LGBTQ+ community.
Over the course of the previous months, 35 bills have been introduced to restrict healthcare access for transgender people, with an additional four restricting access to accurate gender identification on their documents.
Republican commentator Candace Owens said in the aftermath of the shooting that “history will not be kind to those that supported the mutilation of innocent children’s bodies under the guise of ‘gender-affirming care,’” and that transgender people pose a threat to children.
Republican legislators in Tennessee have also drawn intense criticism in the wake of the shooting. Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee tweeted yesterday, asking people to “please join us in praying for the school, congregation and Nashville community,” further perpetuating a practice that does little to fix the issue, much less bring the victims back.
This comes nearly two years after Lee signed a bill into law that allowed Tennessee citizens to carry loaded handguns in public, openly or concealed, without a permit. Lee signed the bill despite significant opposition from law enforcement groups in the state.
Tennessee Senator Marsha Blackburn also made a statement on Monday night, offering assistance to local law enforcement and condolences to the victims and their families, stating, “Chuck and I are heartbroken to hear about the shooting at Covenant School in Nashville … Thank you to the first responders working on site. Please join us in prayer for those affected.”
This occurred after Blackburn voted ‘no’ on a bill in June that strengthened federal gun regulations and personally received over one million dollars in donations from the National Rifle Association.
The time for “thoughts and prayers” has passed. If Republicans like Blackburn continue to make the claim that they “stand ready to assist” while actively impeding any progress made, their empty platitudes will remain as a sign of neglect and the cause of these horrific events.
Our leaders’ actions do not match their words. In the past, Republicans have claimed that mass shootings are a result of a mental health crisis, yet they have offered no solutions. This time they claim it’s because Hale was transgender, while at the same time banning access to life-saving gender-affirming care for transgender youth across the country.
There have been multiple opportunities to pass comprehensive legislation enacting red flag laws, background checks and a ban on large-capacity magazines in light of these shootings, yet Senate Republicans are primed to shoot down an assault weapons ban that could potentially prevent future tragedies.
Americans are angry. Evelyn Dieckhaus, Mike Hill, Katherine Koonce, Hallie Scruggs, William Kinney and Cynthia Peak deserved to live.
It has been nearly ten years since the horrific shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary that brought gun control to the front of the national consciousness, and since then only one significant gun control law has been passed.
It is time for substantial change. Republican lawmakers need to end their hypocrisy and realize what is happening around them, and that they are, in fact, responsible. As lives continue to be lost, the blood of the victims remains on the government’s hands.
The outrage over this shooting can perhaps best be summed up by former House Republican Liz Cheney, who said in a tweet “if we really want to keep our children safe, we need to spend less time banning books and more time stopping the horrific gun violence in our schools.”
Evan Butow is a Junior double majoring in Magazine News and Digital Journalism and Political Science.
Eden Stratton is a Junior double majoring in Magazine News and Digital Journalism and Political Science.
Published on March 28, 2023 at 10:47 pm