Thousands of people rallied Thursday morning at the Tennessee state Capitol building to demand stronger gun control laws, as Nashville still reels from a school shooting earlier in the week.
A shooter opened fire at the Covenant School on Monday, killing at least three children and three adults and wounding several others. State Republicans have insisted that there is nothing they could have done or could do differently to prevent such a tragedy.
Protesters gathered at the Capitol and marched inside ahead of the House and Senate regular floor sessions. People called for gun control and for lawmakers to “protect our kids!”
Inside, demonstrators were packed so tightly that highway patrol officers had to clear a path for lawmakers to enter the gallery.
Protesters continued to call for gun control and began singing songs they had adapted into protest anthems.
Lawmakers, however, appeared to stick to their preset agenda. When Democratic Representative Justin Pearson tried to bring up gun reform while discussing an unrelated bill, Republican Speaker Cameron Sexton told him to keep to the measure at hand.
Republicans hold a supermajority in the Tennessee legislature as well as the governor’s office. Governor Bill Lee and other Republicans have skated around the fact that they are directly responsible for helping create the circumstances that allowed Monday’s shooting to occur.
Lawmakers failed two years ago to pass a red flag law that would have prevented Monday’s shooter from legally acquiring seven guns, three of which were used in the attack. In the past few years, they also loosened gun restrictions and focused their energy instead on attacking LGBTQ rights.