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Tennessee Shut Down a Red Flag Law That Could Have Stopped the Nashville School Shooting

Law enforcement said there are no laws in the state that would’ve allowed police to take weapons away from the shooter.

BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images
A child leaves flowers at a makeshift memorial for victims by the Covenant School building at the Covenant Presbyterian Church following a shooting in Nashville, Tennessee.

Tennessee lawmakers failed two years ago to pass a red flag gun law that could have stopped the shooter who attacked a grade school in Nashville.

A shooter opened fire at the Covenant School on Monday, killing at least three children and three adults and wounding several others. Police have identified the attacker as Audrey Hale, whom they said was under a doctor’s care for an undisclosed emotional disorder.

Hale was known to be suicidal and had reached out to a former classmate, Averianna Patton, with a suicide note before the attack. Patton tried to contact the police and was told to call the nonemergency number. By the time she got through, it was too late.

Hale also owned seven guns, all purchased legally before the attack, police Chief John Drake said. Three of those guns were used in the school shooting on Monday.

“There’s not a law for” reporting cases like Hale, Drake told a press conference. Had the police known about Hale, “then we would have tried to get those weapons. But as it stands, we had absolutely no idea who this person was or if (Hale) even existed.”

But there could have been a law: A Democratic state senator introduced what’s known as a red flag law in January 2020. The bill would have let family members, household members, intimate partners, or law enforcement officers petition a court to ban an individual who “poses an imminent risk of harm to the person or others” from possessing firearms.

If a judge granted the petition and issued an emergency order, the individual would have 48 hours to hand over any guns they already owned, and they would be prohibited from purchasing more until the order is terminated. But first, they would have to prove in a hearing they are no longer a threat to themselves or others.

Republicans held a supermajority in both the state House and Senate at the time (as they do now), and the bill never made it out of committees. In the years since, they have focused more on trying to curb LGBTQ rights than gun safety.

Following Monday’s tragedy, Tennessee Republicans have decided that there’s simply nothing they could have done differently to prevent the attack.

Josh Hawley, Only Senator to Vote Against Anti-Hate Crimes Bill, Wants to Call Nashville Shooting Hate Crime

Stunning hypocrisy from the Missouri senator.

Senator Josh Hawley speaks in a hearing (his nameplate is before him)
Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images
Senator Josh Hawley

In the spring of 2021, Congress passed a bill to support hate crime victims and better prevent and investigate hate crimes. It passed the Senate 94–1; Josh Hawley was the only senator to vote no. Now, he wants to investigate the Nashville mass shooting as a hate crime.

Hawley on Tuesday called the Nashville school shooting a “hate crime” on the basis that it “specifically targeted … the members of this Christian community.” Hawley cited federal law that “prohibits the targeting of violence against any American on the basis of religious affiliation or religious practice or religious belief.”

In other words, Hawley referred to the kind of hate crime guidance that he stood proudly alone in voting against just two years ago.

The difference, of course, is that the 2021 hate crimes bill Hawley voted against focused on the rise in anti-Asian hate since the Covid-19 pandemic. Hawley has similarly not seemed interested in hate crimes when it comes to other communities.  He did not, for instance, make similar calls for hate crime investigations after the May 2022 shooting in Buffalo, New York. That attack was carried out by a white 18-year-old who left behind a manifesto that explicitly laid out the motivations behind his decision to kill 10 Black people at a grocery store.

In the manifesto, the shooter described himself as an ethno-nationalist and white supremacist, voicing support for the vicious “Great Replacement” conspiracy theory that peddles nonsense about a “white genocide.”

After the Buffalo shooting, members of Congress began pushing for a Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act, which sought to establish offices to focus on neo-Nazi and white supremacist terror threats. Hawley stood in full opposition to the bill, calling it the “Patriot Act for American citizens.” (The Patriot Act, a vestige of 9/11, already was policing American citizens, but perhaps Hawley didn’t reflexively think of them as such since they were largely brown men.) And while it’s fair to be hesitant about increasing American policing power, Hawley did not offer any meaningful alternatives to confront white supremacy (nor has he been a critic of law enforcement overreach when it comes to marginalized people anyhow).

No mass shooting should happen, no matter the perpetrator. But instead of aiming to address actual causes of such tragedies, Hawley is, in full view, showing how troublingly inconsistent he is on the issue of hate crimes and violence.

Federal Judge Orders Mike Pence to Testify on January 6 Conversations He Had With Donald Trump

Pence will have to testify in the special counsel case.

Mike Pence
Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images

A federal judge has ordered former Vice President Mike Pence to testify in the special counsel investigation into Donald Trump.

Jack Smith was appointed in November as the special counsel to investigate Trump’s role in the January 6 attack and his keeping hundreds of classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago estate. Trump has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.

Pence, who has previously said he will refuse to testify, can decline to answer questions about his actions during the January 6 insurrection, NBC news reported. He can also appeal the ruling.

The judge’s order, which is still sealed, is a major win for Smith, who has been slowly closing in on Trump and the former president’s inner circle. Smith subpoenaed Pence in early February, which makes sense considering Pence is a key witness to both the events of January 6, 2021, and Trump’s state leading up to them.

But Pence argued that he is protected from testifying by the Constitution’s “speech or debate clause.” That clause’s purpose is to protect members of Congress from having things they say during legislative activities be used against them in lawsuits. Judge James Boasberg of the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., ruled Pence does have some limited protections but is not immune from testifying.

Pence has yet to indicate whether he will cooperate with the judge’s order, but he has repeatedly refused to testify in previous January 6 investigations—despite the fact that the rioters wanted to hang him, which Trump reportedly felt was deserved.

The former vice president is reportedly considering running for the top job in 2024, so he has been hesitant to alienate Trump’s base. Testifying against Trump would surely do so.

Trump has also claimed executive privilege in the investigation, but so far, his efforts to shield himself have not been going well.

This story has been updated.

Migrants Fearing Deportation Set Mattresses on Fire, Starting Fire That Killed 38 People

The tragedy at a detention center on the U.S.–Mexico border comes weeks after the White House revived a Trump-era asylum ban.

Nicolo Filippo Rosso/Bloomberg/Getty Images
Emergency workers and members of the Mexican Army surround body bags of migrants killed following a fire at the National Migration Institute in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, on March 27.

A fire at an immigration detention center on the U.S.–Mexico border on Tuesday seems to have started after migrants at the facility lit mattresses on fire in protest as they feared imminent deportation. The fire grew out of control and left at least 38 people* dead and 29 injured.

The tragedy follows a right-wing escalation in immigration policies coming from the White House. Last month, President Biden announced a proposal to ban certain migrants from receiving U.S. asylum access and to empower the government to deport those migrants more quickly.

Tuesday’s deadly fire took place at a facility in Ciudad Juarez, which stands across the border from El Paso, Texas. According to the National Immigration Institute, 68 men from Central and South America were being held in the facility at the time of the fire. Mexico President Andrés Manuel López Obrador also said the fire was started by migrants protesting after they learned they would be deported. “They never imagined that this would cause this terrible misfortune,” he said.

Biden’s asylum proposal would bar migrants from asylum if they attempted to cross the U.S. border without first seeking refuge in other countries on their way. Migrants unable to prove that they are not in violation of the policy could be quickly deported—without even a chance to appear in front of an immigration judge. U.S. law currently grants the right to anyone physically present in the country to seek asylum regardless of one’s status.

Biden’s proposal is very similar to a Trump-era asylum ban that Democrats (including Biden) rightfully denounced before it was struck down in federal court. The Biden administration sees its new proposed asylum ban as a way to maintain deterrence after Title 42, a Trump-era program that has expelled migrants under the guise of public health, ends.

In Ciudad Juarez, meanwhile, the atmosphere has only heightened paranoia and anxiety among migrants and advocates. The Associated Press reported that more than 30 migrant shelters and other advocacy organizations published an open letter earlier this month that complained of a criminalization of migrants and asylum-seekers in the city. The letter accused authorities of abuse and excessive force while rounding up migrants, even questioning people in the street about their immigration status without any cause.

The 29 injured are at the hospital, with many facing serious injuries. The Guatemalan Institute of Migration has said that at least 28 of those dead have been identified as Guatemalan nationals. At least 853 migrants died just while crossing the border in the 2022 fiscal year.

The death toll in this post was updated.

Kevin McCarthy’s Big Plan to Avoid the Debt Ceiling Doesn’t Really Have a Lot of Details

The House speaker’s list of recommendations doesn’t seem like it’ll save a lot of money.

Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc/Getty Images
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy sent President Joe Biden a letter on Tuesday suggesting how to reign in government spending, but his ideas are ambiguous and unlikely to actually solve anything.

McCarthy also included several proposals from the House Freedom Caucus, the far-right wing of House Republicans, which exercises outsize influence in the chamber after establishing itself as McCarthy’s main obstacle to the speakership.

The California Republican accused Biden of “putting an already fragile economy in jeopardy by insisting upon your extreme position on the debt limit.”

“It’s time to drop partisanship, roll up our sleeves, & find common ground,” McCarthy tweeted.

His letter puts forward four key steps.

He proposes imposing work requirements for people to qualify for Medicaid, a policy that has been proven to be ineffective, as well as recouping any unspent federal Covid-19 funds.

McCarthy also suggests scaling back non-defense federal spending to “pre-inflationary levels.” He does not propose changing the massive defense budget, nor does he explain how to get federal spending down with inflation still at a record high.

The final proposal is to implement “policies to grow our economy and keep Americans safe, including measures to lower energy costs, make America energy independent, and secure our border from the flow of deadly fentanyl that is killing 300 Americans per day.” McCarthy does not explain how to lower energy costs if the government does not subsidize them, nor how he plans to wean the U.S. off of foreign fossil fuels. His plan includes no mention of how to actually secure the border, or what this has to do with lowering the debt, and is instead just another dig at Biden for the influx of immigrants.

Republicans have shot down previous legislative attempts to jumpstart the economy and create more jobs, such as Biden’s Build Back Better Plan. They refuse to consider energy-saving measures such as investing in green energy, and they have also rejected the idea of a billionaire tax.

McCarthy’s plan does not explicitly mention cutting Medicaid or Social Security, a major sticking point in the increasingly heated budget debate, though Medicaid work requirements would effectively cut down the number of people on the program. The GOP has made clear they are willing to hold the debt ceiling hostage in order to cut costs in the federal budget.

Democrats are refusing to compromise on the debt ceiling, setting up a drawn-out battle. If the debate goes on too long, the United States could be in serious trouble. The government already hit the debt ceiling in January, and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has previously warned the U.S. could default on its debt by the summer if the cap isn’t raised.

“It’s simply a recipe for economic and financial catastrophe to think we can pay some of our bills and not all of them,” Yellen told the Senate Finance Committee two weeks ago.

“We’re Not Gonna Fix” School Shootings Says GOP Tennessee Congressman

Tim Burchett does not seem to think the government has a role to play in stopping mass shootings.

Tennessee Representative Tim Burchett gives a thumbs up
Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc/Getty Images
Tennessee Representative Tim Burchett

“We’re not gonna fix it.” This is what Tennessee Republican Representative Tim Burchett said Monday in the aftermath of three children and three adults being shot dead at a school in Nashville, Tennessee, and the remainder of the school’s some 200 students, staff, and families, being left traumatized for the rest of their lives.

“Three precious little kids lost their lives, and I believe three adults, I believe, and the shooter of course, lost their life too. So, it’s a horrible, horrible situation. And, we’re not gonna fix it,” Burchett told reporters Monday, in an incredibly bold-faced assertion about what a member of our government believes government is even for: nothing.

“Criminals are gonna be criminals,” Burchett continued, making the incredibly cynical claim that people are immovable, unchangeable beings. “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,’” seemingly comparing mass shooters to foot soldiers in the world’s deadliest war.

“I don’t see any real role that we could do other than mess things up, honestly, because of the situation,” Burchett proceeded, not really clarifying what the “situation” was that is preventing lawmakers from taking action on gun control. “Like I said, I don’t think a criminal is going to stop from guns, you know, you can print them out on the computer now, 3-D printing, and, there’s really, I don’t think you’re going to stop the gun violence.”

“I think you got to change people’s hearts. You know, as a Christian, as we talk about in the church, and I’ve said this many times, I think we really need a revival in this country,” he continued, as if his version of Christianity is the answer to the school shooting in his state or the 128 other mass shootings that took place before it.

Despite Burchett’s cynicism, there are a number of actual government policies that would decrease gun violence, like enhanced background checks. The Tennessee representative, however, voted against a bill expanding background checks on gun sales in 2021.

On his supposed Christian values, Burchett was one of 62 Republicans who found a way to vote against a bill that aimed to support hate crime victims. He also voted against reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act that helps prevent and respond to domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking.  Not to be mistaken as someone who actually cares about achieving national harmony, Burchett did support efforts to overturn the 2020 election results.

Burchett was also asked what else ought to be done to protect kids like his daughter.

“Well, we homeschool her,” Burchett said with a shrug.

There you have it, folks.

Republicans Push Dangerous Anti-Trans Rhetoric After Nashville School Shooting

This is vile.

Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc/Getty Images
Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene and Senator JD Vance

Republicans have decided that the most important thing about the mass shooting in Nashville is not that six people died, but that the attacker was reportedly transgender.

A shooter opened fire at a private Christian elementary school in Nashville on Monday, killing at least three children and three adults and wounding several others. Police have identified the attacker as Audrey Hale, a former student at the Covenant School. Officials believe that Hale was trans, Police Chief John Drake told NBC News, but they don’t know if that played a role in the shooting.

“There’s some belief that there was some resentment for having to go to that school,” Drake said while clarifying that law enforcement is investigating all potential leads.

Conservatives have latched onto the report about Hale’s identity—and their reactions have been truly vile.
Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene and rightwing activist Charlie Kirk both insisted that the U.S. doesn’t need to regulate guns, it needs to ban gender-affirming care.

“Everyone can stop blaming guns now,” Greene concluded.

Senator J.D. Vance said there needs to be “a lot of soul searching on the extreme left” for “giving in to these ideas” of gender identity and empowering people to live authentically. Presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy said if a person is trans, then it means something else “is badly wrong in their life,” essentially calling for anti-trans conversion therapy. Meanwhile, Republicans have refused to increase infrastructure for social welfare and mental health counseling.

Kingsley Cortes, a former aide on Donald Trump’s 2020 presidential campaign, suggested prohibiting trans people or anyone receiving gender-affirming care from buying guns, seemingly the only gun control proposal put forth by Republicans after the school shooting.

Conservative commentator Tomi Lahren suggested that news media would bury the story or try to blame Christians and anti-trans activists for driving the shooter to action. The story is front-page news for most major news outlets, and police have already said that the school’s ideology may have played a role in Hale’s motivation.

Podcaster Matt Walsh called trans people “violent” and “dangerous” and said, “Trans activists believe that those who oppose them should die.”

Donald Trump Jr. went the farthest, tweeting an outright lie: “Given the incredible rise of trans/non-binary mass shooters in the last few years…by far the largest group committing as a percentage of population…maybe, rather than talking about guns we should be talking about lunatics pushing their gender affirming bullshit on our kids?” he said.

This is blatantly not true. The vast majority of mass shootings are carried out by cisgender white men.

Tennessee Made Gun Laws Looser, Focused Mainly on Attacking Gay People Before Nashville School Shooting

GOP Governor Bill Lee, who signed those bills into law, would now like to offer his thoughts and prayers.

Tennessee Governor Bill Lee speaks while seated
Dylan Hollingsworth/Bloomberg/Getty Images
Tennessee Governor Bill Lee

After every mass shooting, it’s inevitable. Republican lawmakers share hollow “thoughts and prayers,” while they refuse to offer much more, often buoyed by thousands of dollars in dirty gun lobby money. They call for mental services they themselves won’t fund. And they blame anything but the guns themselves (even doors!).

Monday’s mass shooting at a Christian elementary school in Nashville, Tennessee, was no different.

Following the shooting in his state, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee appealed to “please join us in praying for the school, congregation & Nashville community,” offering no idea, for instance, of how to achieve a reality where constant prayer and hollow thoughts are no longer needed.

His uselessness is unsurprising, given the large role he has played in making it easier for mass shooters in his state to access guns. In 2021, Lee signed a bill that allowed people to openly carry handguns without permits; the policy was at the forefront of his legislative agenda for the year. He proudly thanked the National Rifle Association “for helping get this done.”

Specifically, the bill allowed people 21 and older to carry handguns, openly or concealed without a permit, and allowed the same for members of the military between the ages of 18 to 20.

When the bill first passed the state House, Republican Majority Leader William Lamberth said it was “not the end of the journey” for expanding gun rights in Tennessee.

And he was right. Just last month, Tennessee Republicans embarked on another push to allow all 18- and 19-year-old residents to carry handguns without permits. The House version of the bill changes the policy to include any firearm, not just handguns—and yes, this would include weapons the likes of AR-15 rifles and shotguns. The bill would also have Tennessee recognize any out of state permit as valid “as if it is a firearm carry permit issued in this state.”

As of 2020, Tennessee was among the top 10 deadliest states in the country from firearms.

Meanwhile, as Tennessee Republicans have dedicated any gun-related thoughts toward making it easier for people to be mowed down, they’ve had their hands full elsewhere too. Lee, who has worn drag himself, signed a radical law making Tennessee the first state to ban drag performances. The Tennessee state House passed another radical bill allowing government employees to reject marriage licenses of same-sex, interfaith, or interracial couples. Concurrently, Tennessee state Senate Republicans passed a bill that would prevent trans people from being able to have their state-issued IDs reflect their identities. If Tennessee passes the bill, it could lose almost $1.3 billion in federal education funding; that they’re seemingly ready to pass the bill anyway shows how viciously eager they are to continue attacking trans people.

Tennessee Republicans have made existence more distressing by virtue of their inaction on gun regulation and in fact making gun access even easier; this sad excuse of governance is paired with their hyperfocus on further policing and punishing marginalized people for existing at all.

“Aren’t You Guys Tired of Covering This?”: Mom Interrupts Fox News Segment on Nashville School Shooting

A woman who survived one mass shooting and went on vacation to Nashville found herself at the site of another one.

Screenshot/Fox News

A woman who had survived a previous mass shooting interrupted a Fox News live report Monday to demand more gun control legislation, after a shooter opened fire on a school in Nashville.

At least three children and three adults were killed in the attack on a private Christian elementary school, and several others wounded. As reporters gathered for a press conference, one woman ran up to the microphones, cutting off a Fox News reporter before he could begin his live shot.

“Aren’t you guys tired of covering this? Aren’t you guys tired of being here and having to cover all of these mass shootings?” she asked, explaining that she lives in Highland Park, Illinois. The suburb of Chicago was rocked last summer after a man opened fire on the Fourth of July parade.

“How is this still happening?” the woman, who told CNN her name is Ashbey Beasley, demanded, explaining she has been lobbying in Washington, D.C., for increased gun control since the shooting in her hometown.

“How are our children still dying, and why are we failing them? Gun violence is the number one killer of children and teens.”

On Fox News, the clip suddenly cut out as Beasley discussed the lack of proper gun storage laws.

Beasley told CNN that she had come to Nashville with her son to visit friends and family, only to find themselves right next to a second mass shooting.

“It’s only in America can somebody survive a mass shooting and then go on vacation …and find themselves near another mass shooting,” Beasley said.

Beasley noted “how preventable these incidences are,” calling out politicians who refuse to pass gun control legislation.

The attack at the Covenant School was the 129th mass shooting of the year, according to the Gun Violence Archive. There have been 89 days in 2023 so far.

The Internet Won’t Let Nashville Rep. Andy Ogles Forget His Family Christmas Card After School Shooting

Ogles offered his constituents “thoughts and prayers” after a school shooting in his district.

Mark Humphrey/AP/Shutterstock
Representative Andy Ogles

Tennessee Representative Andy Ogles was put on blast Monday for old posts on social media, as people called out his hypocrisy in light of a school shooting in his district earlier in the day.

A shooter opened fire at a private Christian elementary school in Nashville, killing at least three children and three adults and wounding several others. Ogles, who represents the district that the Covenant School is located in, was quick to offer a bland, anodyne statement in response.

“We are sending our thoughts and prayers to the families of those lost. As a father of three, I am utterly heartbroken by this senseless act of violence. I am closely monitoring the situation and working with local officials,” he tweeted.

People did not hold back in the comments, dragging him for using the standard Republican “thoughts and prayers” line. Many were also quick to share an old family photo of his.

In the photo from the 2021 Ogles family Christmas card, the representative, his wife, and their three children pose in front of a Christmas tree. They’re all holding automatic rifles, except the youngest, who apparently is too young for a gun just yet and so has to hold the “Merry Christmas” sign.

Another user shared one of Ogles’s old tweets. “Last time I checked ‘rights’ don’t include killing innocent babies,” he said in January.

Ogles’s tweet was referring to abortion access, but neither it nor his Christmas card have aged well, given Monday’s events.

The attack at the Covenant School was the 129th mass shooting of the year, according to the Gun Violence Archive. We are only on day 86 of 2023.

Ogles, a freshman representative, also was elected to Congress after fabricating large parts of his résumé.