After the Nashville school shooting, America must do more than grieve. It must act

Chicago Tribune editorial board (TNS)

Again, America grieves. Monday morning, an assailant wielding two assault-style weapons and a pistol gunned down three students, all age 9, and three adults at a small private Christian school in Nashville, Tennessee. It was the eighth mass killing at an American K-12 school since 2006, according to The Associated Press, and the 130th mass shooting in the country this year.

If Americans are growing numb to the horrific regularity of mass shootings at schools, they shouldn’t. No one with any sense of humanity should allow themselves to brand shootings at schools as simply the world we live in or the sad reality today.

The attack at the Covenant School should do much more than evoke grief and empathy. It should shake Americans into action.

In this screen grab from surveillance video tweeted by the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department, Audrey Elizabeth Hale points an assault-style weapon inside The Covenant School in Nashville, Tenn., Monday, March 27, 2023. (Metropolitan Nashville Police Department/TNS)

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There’s still much to learn about the shooter. Audrey Elizabeth Hale, 28 and transgender, once attended Covenant and may have, as Metropolitan Nashville police Chief John Drake told reporters, harbored “some resentment for having to go to that school.” Still unknown is whether Hale had exhibited any behavior to warrant scrutiny that could have helped prevent the attack, though there are reports that the Hale was under doctor care for an emotional disorder.

But one thing police say they do know: Hale legally obtained two of the firearms brought to the school. That’s where everyday Americans come in.

It is past time for any citizen to countenance voting for a lawmaker, whether at the state or federal level, who refuses to support a ban on assault-style rifles. Such a ban isn’t an end-all solution. But it would take off the streets a weapon that has become synonymous with America’s mass shootings epidemic.

Assault-style rifles are built for mass killing. An AR-15 bullet wields three times more speed and energy than a round from a handgun. Together with high-capacity magazines, assault-style rifles serve the sole purpose of inflicting mass carnage.

We have written many times about the scripted argument Republican legislators make after every mass shooting: It’s not the gun, it’s all about the person brandishing it. And, yes, clearly guns do not fire themselves.

But how many mass shootings, how much bloodshed at schools, will it take for Americans to realize this crisis should be tackled solely with a nonpartisan approach? After the Sept. 11 attacks, Americans collectively rallied against the threat of terrorism. The scourge of mass shootings shouldn’t be treated any differently.

We know that America has been here before, many times. The 2012 massacre of 20 students and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, horrified the nation — and Congress’ response was far from robust enough. After 17 students and teachers were gunned down at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, in 2018, surviving students spoke out for stricter gun laws and inspired thousands of high school students across the country to back their cause with protests. More school shootings followed.

Will Covenant mark a tipping point? It should. But only if Americans do more than just grieve.

— From the Chicago Tribune editorial board (TNS).