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Tennessee students deserve safe schools. Our lawmakers must act on gun violence.

We’re nearing the end of August, and many young Tennesseans will head back to school in the coming weeks. This time can be filled with mixed emotions for students, parents, and family members.

As a rising junior at Vanderbilt University, the most prominent emotions I’m feeling are fear and anger.

My whole college experience has been impacted by shootings. I began my freshman year shortly before one person was shot and killed, and 13 others were injured at a Kroger in Collierville. The summer before my sophomore year, two people were shot and killed, and 14 others were wounded in a devastating mass shooting outside a Chattanooga nightclub. And this past spring, three children and three adults were shot and killed inside the Covenant School in Nashville—a mere four miles from where I go to school.


In an average year, 1,385 people die by guns in Tennessee.

Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund, “EveryStat: Tennessee,”

Last updated: 3.20.2023

Nothing meaningful has been done to change the culture of gun violence in Tennessee. In recent years, our lawmakers have actively worked to weaken our existing gun laws, making it easier for people to carry firearms without background checks or training. Thanks to the inaction of Tennessee lawmakers, I have to fear for my life every day.

But I refuse to let their inaction define the future for myself and other students. We have a real chance to change gun safety laws in Tennessee for the better. Our movement responded to the Covenant shooting in full force, organizing protests and marches, staging school walkouts, and sending thousands of messages to lawmakers urging them to take action. For the first time in what feels like a long time, they were paying attention to us.

Now we need to capitalize on that momentum.

Governor Lee has called a special session to consider public safety measures. We had high hopes that Governor Lee and Republican majority leaders understood the policies necessary to allow us to feel safe in this state when the Governor called the special session, but the governor’s proclamation fell short and did not include language to allow for a meaningful Extreme Risk law and unfortunately, lawmakers have yet to introduce any bills to meaningfully address gun violence. We will continue to fight in every way possible to pass policies that can advance us toward a safer Tennessee.

I refuse to let their inaction define the future for myself and other students. We have a real chance to change gun safety laws in Tennessee for the better.

We must organize, we must protest, and we must demand action. As always, we will keep our focus on policies that will keep guns out of schools in the first place – policies like secure firearm storage laws and Extreme Risk laws.

Tennesseans have spoken loud and clear, and we won’t quiet down until those in power listen. We need common-sense gun safety policies that will keep us safe both in and out of the classroom.

Back-to-school season will always be filled with some anxiety, but it’s time we’re able to worry more about our homework and friends than running for cover.

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