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Bus tour, statewide, rolls toward Special Session

Coalition supporting gun safety policies to hear from families, discuss need for action

by PRIDE Newsdesk
Sen. Charlane Oliver, Rep. John Ray Clemmons, and Sen. Heidi Campbell announce a listening bus tour across the state for gun reform at the August special session.

A coalition of Tennessee lawmakers, gun reform advocates and concerned citizens, who want to address the state’s gun violence epidemic, will be traveling the state in a school bus with a clear message for Tennessee families: Our kids deserve better.

With gun violence now ranking as the leading cause of death for children in Tennessee, advocates say our children and their safety must be priority one—and it’s time for the state legislature to take substantive action during the upcoming special session.

Our Children Deserve Better, a 501(c) 4 organization, seeks to reduce gun violence in Tennessee and push for policies that will help better protect Tennessee’s children in their schools and neighborhoods. The organization is embarking on a multi-city bus tour leading up to the anticipated special session in Nashville on Aug. 21. Families will have an opportunity to share their opinions firsthand with state lawmakers in their own communities.

Despite Republican attempts to block all substantive, common sense legislation during the special session that could help prevent future school shootings, they have been invited to participate in the bus tour to hear directly from victims of gun violence and advocates for gun safety.

Rep. John Ray Clemmons, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, says the bus tour was borne out of the frustration, sadness and fear felt by thousands of parents and students following The Covenant School shooting in March and the countless other senseless acts of gun violence that continue to plague every community across this state.

“Sitting in Nashville and spinning our wheels inside the Capitol while families across this state continue to worry about their children’s safety is not an option,” said Rep. Clemmons. “Those of us who believe that our children deserve better are hitting the road to hear from families in their communities and share information. We encourage everyone who cares about this issue, regardless of political affiliation, to join us and get on board for gun safety.”

“Tennesseans from all walks of life have made it clear. They want lawmakers to work together passing reforms that save children’s lives by preventing gun violence before it happens,” said Sen. Raumesh Akbari, the Senate minority leader. “Our families shouldn’t have to live in constant fear that our children might not make it home from school. It’s time to put politics aside and work for the safety of every Tennessee family.”

The bus tour to end gun violence began Wednesday in Memphis at the National Civil Rights Museum. House Minority Leader Karen Camper said that Memphis and the museum are appropriate places to start.

“Gun violence is ravaging the Memphis community,” Leader Camper stated. “Just the thought of the tragedy that could have occurred last week at the Margolin Hebrew Academy breaks my heart. The National Civil Rights Museum, which has documented many of the struggles this country has already gone through, is the perfect spot to begin our tour and hear our constituents’ thoughts on what needs to be done to reform our current system and protect Tennesseans in all of our state’s diverse areas. Our communities are the backbone of our state. Each one has a unique flavor, but they combine to create the rich tapestry that is Tennessee.”

Other stops include: Jackson at the West Tenn. Farmers Market, Dickson at Mulberry Mill, and on August 12 the bus will stop in Clarksville at Patriots Park at noon.

The journey will end in Nashville at the State Capitol on Aug. 21, which is scheduled to be the first day of the Special Session.

“One of the main reasons for the bus tour is to build public pressure for gun safety reforms,” said Sen. London Lamar, chairwoman of the Senate Democratic Caucus. “Gun violence is a public health crisis. After a decade of Republicans eliminating gun safety laws, shootings are now the leading cause of death for children in Tennessee and innocent people are dying every day. Ending gun violence has always been one of my top priorities and I will keep fighting for gun safety until we finally restore some sanity to our laws.”

Since Republicans gained controlling power, the Tennessee General Assembly has loosened gun laws and abolished common sense gun safety reforms, such as mandatory gun safety classes and background checks for going armed, gun permits, and restrictions on carrying in many public places.

Giffords Law Center, a nonprofit research organization that tracks and analyzes legislation in all 50 states, issues an annual gun law scorecard. This year, Tennessee lawmakers earned an ‘F’ for gun policies in state law.

“Since we started this project in 2010, the evidence has been clear and consistent. Strong gun laws save lives, but only in the states that are willing to act,” the Giffords website says.

Not coincidentally, gun violence has steadily increased over the last decade. The latest CDC research on gun violence shows that 1,569 Tennesseans (a record number) were killed by firearms in 2021.

That’s roughly one person dying from gunshot wounds every 5.6 hours.

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