Anti-gun activists exploit Tennessee school shooting in tragedy’s aftermath

It's a ghoulish and obscene way to respond to a tragedy.

In the wake of the shooting at a Christian school in Nashville, Tennessee, a lot of people are sharing their thoughts about how to prevent such an awful tragedy from happening again. This is to be expected after something so terrible, to be sure. However, many people are also exploiting the aftermath as a pretext to push for various bits of unrelated gun control or to take a shot at unrelated pro-gun legislation.

For example, we have Moms Demand Action founder Shannon Watts. The Independent reports

Shannon Watts, the founder of Moms Demand Action, which advocates for gun safety, criticised Governnor[sic] Bill Lee for not putting out a statement after the shooting at Covenant Presbyterian School in Nashville. Metro Nashillve[sic] Police Department officers shot and killed the suspect.

“Tennessee @GovBillLee hasn’t had time yet to tweet his thoughts and prayers for Covenant School, but when he does, remind him that this is exactly why police and citizens opposed the permitless carry bill he signed into law at a gun maker’s factory in 2021,” Ms Watts tweeted.

Mr Lee signed legislation in 2021 that allowed for citizens to carry a loaded handgun either concealed or openly without a permit, but not rifles or shotguns. The suspect in the Nashville school shooting, identified as a 28-year-old woman, was carrying two assault-style rifles and a handgun, according to police.

To be clear, it’s unlikely that Tennessee’s permitless carry measure played any role at all in Monday’s tragedy, as the shooter was carrying rifles and thus violating it by definition. 

Yet that doesn’t stop many from trying to equate something awful with policies they don’t like. Watts is hardly unique in that regard. President Biden, for example, is notorious for calling for assault weapon bans before we even know what kind of firearm was used in a mass shooting. This happened after the shooting in Raleigh, North Carolina, and again at the University of Virginia.

These are, of course, just a few examples of a long-recurring problem. Many want to advance gun control and apparently see mass shootings as an opportunity to do it. So, when such a shooting happens, they latch on and try to push for their preferred policies, regardless of the facts of the tragedy. 

What they don’t get is how this comes across as ghoulish and opportunistic. 

After all, when the dust settles and it’s clear that the proposed solution—repealing constitutional carry or passing an assault weapon ban, for example—has absolutely no bearing on what actually happened, it looks like grandstanding, like gun control advocates are using the bodies of the slain as a soapbox. It’s kind of disgusting. 

Of course, I don’t expect people like President Biden or Shannon Watts to change. This is the modus operandi of the gun control crowd and has been for years.

It’s especially interesting since there’s a flip side to the push for gun control in the wake of these shootings. After all, there’s often a gun control law in place that was either ignored or even helped facilitate such a shooting, thus undermining the gun control argument entirely.

Watts, for example, opted to attack the governor of Tennessee for constitutional carry, but we also know that teachers and staff cannot carry firearms on school property in the state. Private schools are a potential exception, but only if they opt to develop a policy permitting it. If this school didn’t have such a policy–and, to be fair, we simply don’t know yet whether they did or not–anyone carrying a gun on the premises would have been committing a felony.

Since state law also requires this to be communicated to parents, it may well have played a role in the killer’s selection of targets. But I’m intellectually honest enough to acknowledge that it may also have played absolutely no role in Monday’s events. My only point in bringing it up is to show that not only does it look ghoulish to push for unrelated gun control, but it may also open the debate up to very inconvenient facts that have far more relevance.

In the end, I don’t expect to see anything change, but I’d love to be wrong.

What happened in Nashville is beyond awful. That’s a point that’s really beyond contestation. But when folks like Shannon Watts exploit the tragedy to push an unrelated agenda, that’s pretty bad too. 

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Tom Knighton
Tom Knighton
Tom Knighton is a Navy veteran, a former newspaperman, a novelist, and a lifetime shooter who has increasingly focused on Second Amendment issues. He lives with his family in Southwest Georgia.