Mar 30, 2023 - News

Nashville mourns school shooting victims at vigil

A child holds a candle during a public vigil to honor victims and survivors of the shooting at The Covenant School in Nashville. Photo: John Amis/AFP via Getty Images

Nashville came together Wednesday evening to grieve.

  • At a candlelight vigil in Public Square Park, a crowd of hundreds bowed their heads and prayed for the six victims killed Monday in a school shooting that shook the city to its core.

They joined hands and cried in each other's arms. They sang a hymn of hope, but each speaker acknowledged the despair that has gripped the community in the days since the tragedy.

"Our heart is broken, our city united, as we mourn together," Mayor John Cooper said, surrounded by a throng of leaders that included first lady Jill Biden.

The shooting at The Covenant School in Green Hills killed three 9-year-olds and three staff members. Cooper announced that a fund established to help the victims' families had already raised more than $350,000.

  • He pledged to continue to stand with the families and The Covenant School.

"All of Nashville has become part of your community this week. We stand by you and support you — today and always," he said.

  • "You are not alone — a grieving city joins you."

In a prayer to close the vigil, state Rep. Harold Love asked for love, grace and strength.

  • "Love to bring healing. Grace to bring compassion. And strength to bring change so that this never happens again."
People attend the vigil on Wednesday for victims of The Covenant School shooting. Photo: Seth Herald/Getty Images

Love's words spoke to another side of this terrible week: the urgent desire to protect Nashville’s children.

Driving the news: The gun control advocacy group Moms Demand Action hosted a rally on Tuesday.

  • Other groups are organizing, too: A gathering of parents and kids is planned for Thursday morning at the state Capitol. A rally in Franklin is set for Saturday. A student walkout to the Capitol is intended for Monday.
  • Stricter gun laws have been favored by the mostly liberal city for some time.

Yes, but: Those policies face a political brick wall in Tennessee.

  • The Republicans who control state government have no appetite for any gun restrictions.
  • Their approach to stopping school shootings has focused on securing buildings, hiring more armed resource officers and training first responders.

In remarks posted earlier this week, Gov. Bill Lee said "there will come a time to discuss and debate policy" responses, including legislation and budget proposals.

  • Lee said "we will act to prevent this from happening again." He praised previous work to "strengthen the safety of our schools."
  • "Clearly there is more work to do."

While the shooting has reenergized calls for federal reforms, U.S. Rep. Tim Burchett, a Knoxville Republican, said Congress didn't have a role to play in the aftermath.

  • "We're not going to fix it," he said. "Criminals are going to be criminals."
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