Activists call on governor, legislators to take action to stop gun violence

Activists left stuffed animals, backpacks and white roses outside Gov. Bill Lee's office on...
Activists left stuffed animals, backpacks and white roses outside Gov. Bill Lee's office on Wednesday.(WSMV)
Published: Jun. 1, 2022 at 11:16 AM CDT|Updated: Jun. 1, 2022 at 7:06 PM CDT
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WSMV) - Pastors, activists, doctors and many others in the community rallied on Wednesday calling for Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee and legislators to take action to prevent gun violence and mass shootings.

Rally goers gathered at Legislative Plaza on Wednesday morning with signs before they made their way into the State Capitol and then to Lee’s office.

Rally goers spent 90 minutes outside Lee’s office. Rally goers said that 90 minutes represented the amount of time it took officers in Uvalde, Texas, to intervene when the shooter was in Robb Elementary School.

“They will now that we’re there whether they open the door or now,” activist Justin Jones said. “We hope he (Gov. Lee) will choose to respond because he’s been too silent, and we need more than thoughts and prayers. We need to put our hands and feet in action.”

Gun violence and mass shootings in America needs to end and something needs to be done. That was the message from rally goers and physical evidence of that message was left in front of the governor’s office with stuffed animals in remembrance of victims of the Uvalde shooting and white roses in honor of the victims of the Buffalo, New York, shooting.

The names of the victims of both mass shootings were read aloud.

“I chose to come because I want people to understand that it doesn’t go away. It’s been four years for me, a little more than four years. It doesn’t go away,” Shaundelle Brooks, the mother of Akilah DaSilva, who was killed in the Waffle House mass shooting in Antioch, said. “This is something that you live with for the rest of your life.”

Brooks is speaking from experience.

“Politicians say we’re going to get over this. No, we don’t, the families don’t,” Brooks said.

Brooks was one of several speakers at the rally outside the governor’s office, calling for legislators to take action against gun violence.

“I’ve seen firsthand how bullets tear holds through bodies, severing arteries, punching holds through lungs and hearts,” Dr. Katrina Green, an emergency room physician said. “If things continue on its current course, it is only a matter of time before I am the physician on duty when one of the mass shootings happens in my neighborhood. I don’t want any more thoughts and prayers without action because thoughts and prayers do not stop bullets.”

In a letter to Lee signed by over 40 clergy members from Tennessee, they called for state legislators to do five things to prevent gun violence.

“As a pastor, somebody has to speak into this issue and demand that our government now do something about it. That’s just common sense. No one wants to get rid of the Second Amendment completely,” Franklin Community Church pastor Kevin Riggs said.

Those five actions include:

  • Repeal the permitless carry law that went into effect in 2021.
  • Pass a universal background check law that closes the gun show loophole.
  • Call for a vote on SB1807 “Red Flag Law” that has been pending in the Senate Judiciary Committee since June 2020.
  • Ban semiautomatic assault weapons, armor-piercing ammunition and high-capacity magazines.
  • Form a committee that includes clergy of all faiths to work on common sense gun regulations.

“There are some commonsense gun laws that we can add that we need to have that I think would stop a lot of these mass shootings, not all of them, but I think it would stop a lot of them,” Riggs said.

Riggs tried to deliver the letter to the governor’s office along with other rallygoers but the letter wasn’t accepted.

“The governor won’t come out and we know this is the people’s house and we will remain here for 90 minutes in witness to this atrocity and to this injustice that’s happening today as well,” Jones said.

“I hope it would wake up some humans in politicians, like please, we need to do something. Our babies are dying,” Brooks said.

Riggs said he hopes Wednesday’s rally also calls others to action.

“It’s good to pray, but prayer is really a request, and when we pray, part of our prayer should be God what do you want me to do about this?” Riggs said. “Not just in the Christian faith and Jewish faith, the Muslim faith, the Buddhist faith, that all of us who are leaders of faith, rally our people together and say, we can make a difference. We can stop this, and we must start acting now. So, I hope people take away from this, they have to get involved, they got to be active, they got to contact their congressman or their mayor in their own local city. They’ve got to get involved if we want to make a difference. We can’t sti by anymore and allow this to happen.”

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