By Ailya Khan
On March 27, an armed assailant forcibly invaded and opened fire at the Covenant School, an evangelical private academy in Nashville, Tennessee. The shooter, identified as 28 year old Audrey E. Hale, a former student of the institution, murdered six people.
According to CNN, the shooter had entered the school by firing through two sets of glass doors, firing fatal shots within the first two minutes of being inside. Nashville police received an emergency report of a shooting at the school at 10:13 a.m., arriving at the scene with haste. Two officers shot and killed Hale at 10:27 a.m., 14 minutes later.
Nashville Police Chief John Drake responded to the brave and timely action of his team at a news conference regarding the shooting by saying, “We’ve trained for incidents like this for years with the thoughts that if it ever happened, we would not hesitate, we would go in, and we would do whatever was needed for the safety of those involved.”
Within those 14 minutes, Hale had killed three students and three faculty. The victims were identified as Hallie Scruggs, Evelyn Dieckhaus and William Kinney, all of whom were 9 years old. Also among the victims were Katherine Koonce, 60, the head of the school; Mike Hill, 61, a school custodian and Cynthia Peak, 61, a substitute teacher.
Families of the victims, as well as the Nashville community, were devastated at lives of their loved ones being stolen. Hundreds of people gathered at the Public Square Park in downtown Nashville for a candlelight vigil in honor of the victims on March 29.
Authorities are still unaware of the exact motives behind the shooter’s appalling actions, but Hale being a former student may have contributed to the school being the specific target of the attack.
The shooter was in legal possession of seven firearms which were stashed around his house. Three of these guns were used in the attack, including a military-style semi automatic rifle, one handgun and a small 9 millimeter carbine.
According to ABC, police were able to collect evidence that suggests the shooter had planned this attack for months. The shooter was found to be in possession of a diagram of the school, highlighting entrance points. In the shooters car, officers discovered many folders and journals containing notes on previous school shootings, firearms courses, a suicide note, medical files and firearm accessories. Authorities also say these folders revealed Hale was examining the actions of other mass murderers.
The Nashville Chief relayed that the shooter identified as transgender and male. Police believe that there is a possibility for “built up resentment” for having to attend the school. However, it is not established how much of a role this information played in the shooter’s motives, as reported by NBC.
Hale was also struggling with an emotional disorder and was being treated by a doctor.
Yet another attack on schools has further ignited the fight for gun legislation and restriction. Thousands of protesters marched to the State Capitol a few days after the event, advocating for tighter control on gun access. They were even joined by some Democratic lawmakers, including Gloria Johnson of Knoxville, Justin J. Pearson of Memphis and Justin Jones of Nashville. Jones and Pearson were expelled and stripped of their committee assignments as punishment, but were later reinstated.
According to CNN, Jones and Pearson claim their microphones were muted when they tried to speak on the issue of gun control on the Tennessee House of Representatives floor during the week of the shooting. Despite this, they continued to voice their opposition for gun violence and demonstrated to the public that they were still in support of advocating for gun regulations.
Although Republican Governor Bill Lee took measures after the shooting to update school security systems and requirements, many Democratic leaders, including Vice President Kamala Harris, have openly condemned the expulsions and the alternative methods to combat the issue of gun violence without actually focusing on making them inaccessible.
“We understand when we take an oath to represent the people who elected us that we speak on behalf of them. It wasn’t about the three of these leaders, it was about who they were representing,” Harris said. “Understand that — and is that not what a democracy allows?”