Jul 21, 2023 - News

Covenant School parents seek to prevent future shootings

Robin Wolfenden prays at a makeshift memorial for victims outside the Covenant School building

Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

A group of Covenant School parents spoke out Thursday in support of Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee's proposal to expand orders of protection in an effort to prevent gun violence.

  • The parents said such a plan might have prevented the March 27 mass shooting that killed three Covenant students and three staff members.

Why it matters: The coalition of about 60 families is forming nonprofits to push for concrete policy changes in Tennessee. Leading members of the group vowed to continue meeting with lawmakers in an effort to promote expanded orders of protection, improvements to background checks and safe storage laws.

"These are not controversial items," parent and nonprofit co-founder David Teague said at a press conference, referencing the fact that those measures have broad support across the political spectrum. "It's the fact that they're not on the books already, is what's controversial."

What they're saying: "[W]e believe there is power in sharing our story so others can understand and learn from the experience of our children and staff on that fateful day," parent and co-founder Melissa Alexander said.

  • "As a native Tennessean and a gun owner, I think it's important to emphasize we are proponents of responsible gun ownership. However, I think it's important to intervene when there are clear signs that something is wrong."

Driving the news: Lee has proposed a plan that would allow authorities to temporarily block someone from having firearms if a judge decides they are a danger to themselves or others.

  • Lee's plan would build on the existing system for orders of protection, which are typically used in domestic violence cases.
  • Alexander called the plan "a life-saving measure that could have prevented the tragedy at The Covenant School."

State of play: A special session is planned next month to address possible reforms, although many top Republican lawmakers oppose gun restrictions.

  • The families said they were committed to pushing for change.

"The mass shooting at our beloved school has forever been threaded into the story of our lives. Though the trauma will never truly dissipate, we have no choice but to continue moving forward," parent and co-founder Sarah Shoop Neumann said, while her 6-year-old son Noah Neumann, a Covenant student, stood beside her at the podium.

  • "My hope is that through education and legislative advocacy, we can bring beauty from these ashes in honor of the lives lost that we mourn so deeply for."

After she finished speaking, Neumann lifted Noah up to the microphone.

"I don't want any guns today or any day," he said. "And I love my school."


Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Nashville.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More Nashville stories

No stories could be found


Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Nashville.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more