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‘She should feel safe at school’: Tennessee parents, Democrats say changes are needed to prevent

Tennessee Democrats are calling for changes to state laws following the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas.    
MChe Lee
Tennessee Democrats are calling for changes to state laws following the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas.    

Tennessee Democrats and gun control advocates are calling for changes to state laws following a mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas.   

For LeeAnn Hewlett, Wednesday morning’s ride to drop off her second grader felt different. Usually, it’s filled with music or a fun conversation. This time, it revolved around the Texas school shooting. 

“I wanted her to know what’s going on, but I also wanted her to know she should feel safe at school,” Hewlett said. “Part of me felt I was lying to her because I don’t know that she’s safe at school. I don’t know if we’re safe when we go to the grocery store.”

Hewlett is a local volunteer with Moms Demand Action. She spoke to reporters after a press conference held by Tennessee Democrats on the Capitol complex. She says for her daughter to stay safe in school, she’ll need to see changes — changes that Rep. John Ray Clemmons, D-Nashville, says Republican Gov. Bill Lee should act on now. 

“Utilize your executive emergency powers to freeze open carry laws, the ‘Guns in Trunk law,'” Clemmons said.

The ‘Guns in Trunk law,’ passed by Republicans in 2021 allows individuals to store firearms and ammunition in their car while on public or private property.

Clemmons added that the governor should call a special session for legislators to return to Nashville so that “we can work together across the aisle and take action on this public health crisis.”

Clemmons acknowledges tightening gun laws will be an uphill battle in the state.

Tennessee has loosened access to guns in recent years. In 2021, Bill Lee backed and approved a law allowing permitless carry for handguns, and this year, lawmakers attempted to lower the age to carry a gun to 18.

Gov. Bill Lee tweeted that he was heartbroken by the horrific tragedy and ordered flags at half-staff. Rep. Jeremy Faison, who is the Republican Caucus chair, says he reached out to the Tennessee Department of Education to find a way to have school resource officers at every school.

During the 2020-2021 school year, there were 1,301 school resource officers employed in the state of Tennessee, according to the Department of Education. There is currently no law requiring schools to have one monitoring the campus.

Copyright 2022 WPLN News. To see more, visit WPLN News.

Blaise Gainey is a Political Reporter for WPLN News. He is the youngest of three siblings, husband and father of two. He previously held the State Government Reporter position for WFSU News in Tallahassee. He is from Apopka, Fla., and graduated from The School of Journalism at the Florida A&M University. He previously worked for The Florida Channel and WTXL-TV. He is excited to move to another capital and report on state government. In his spare time, he enjoys watching sports, outdoor activities and enjoying family time.
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