Noah, 6, paused at the microphone and softly stated, “I don’t want any guns today or any day in my school.”
Sarah Shoop Neumann, the boy’s mother, wiped away tears as she hugged him. It had been over four months since a shooter opened fire on a private elementary school in Nashville, killing three of Noah’s classmates and three adults. Neumann, on the other hand, desired action.
Neumann and others announced on Thursday that they had formed two nonprofits to promote school safety and mental health resources and create an action fund to push legislative policy changes that would place specific limits on firearms inside Tennessee’s politically ruby-red state.
“We can create brighter tomorrows for our state so that no other community has to endure the suffering,” Neumann said during a press conference. “And our children can now go to school without fear.”
The decision by the group is the latest twist in the ongoing debate over whether Republican-dominated Tennessee would approve meaningful legislation in response to the Covenant School shooting.
While gun control advocates have pushed for stricter gun regulations for years, these families hope to make more significant inroads with conservative lawmakers by drawing on commonalities in their faith and, for some, political backgrounds while emphasizing the need to prevent future tragedies.
Parents will gather at the state Capitol building every day for the next few weeks to pray and meet with legislators.
“As a native Tennessean and gun owner, I think it’s important to emphasize that we are proponents of responsible gun ownership,” said Melissa Alexander, a Covenant parent. “However, I believe it is critical to intervene when there are clear indications that something is wrong.”
Establishing the political advocacy fund makes it easier for families to engage legislators on their policy ideas and collect donations. Nonetheless, the parents insist they do not intend to interfere in state elections or endorse specific candidates.
The group supports taking guns away from those who are a danger to themselves or others, increasing firearm storage restrictions, and tightening background checks.
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So far, Republican lawmakers have decisively rejected Republican Gov. Bill Lee’s requests to enact legislation that would keep firearms out of the hands of persons who could hurt themselves or others.
The Legislature initially rejected Lee’s attempt to approve the law in the spring, prompting the governor to declare that he will call a special legislative session in August for members to reconsider his and other proposals.
Instead, the Republican supermajority has generally campaigned for more school security, and many have vowed to oppose any ideas that would replicate so-called “red flag” laws enacted by other states in the aftermath of school shootings.
Lee has insisted that his idea is not a red flag law, referring to it as a “toxic political label.”
So far, 19 states have red flag laws, with many politicians implementing them in the aftermath of catastrophes. Notably, Florida did so in the aftermath of the 2018 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School tragedy, which murdered 17 students. Numerous complaints had been received by law enforcement regarding the 19-year-old gunman’s menacing utterances.
According to Lee’s proposal, law enforcement would first establish whether a person is a threat, and then a hearing with the individual would be held within three to five days. A court would decide whether or not they should have their firearms temporarily confiscated.
If this is the case, the individual must surrender their firearms and ammo to a third party within two days, and any handgun carry license will be suspended within three business days. The actions would be carried out for up to 180 days.
The extraordinary session is set to begin on August 21. Noah Neumann’s age has been corrected to six, not five.
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