National News

After Nashville School Shooting, Biden Renews Call for Assault Weapons Ban and Universal Background Checks

U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks at the at the White House in Washington March 27, 2023. Biden made remarks on the shooting that occurred that mornin at Covenant School on the grounds of Covenant Presbyterian Church in Nashville, Tenn., that three adults and three children dead. (OSV News photo)

By Kate Scanlon

WASHINGTON (OSV News) — President Joe Biden called a March 27 shooting at a school in Nashville, Tennessee, “sick,” “heartbreaking” and “a family’s worst nightmare,” in remarks from the White House. The president called on Congress to pass an assault weapons ban.

Three children and three staff members were fatally shot at Covenant School, a private Christian elementary school in Nashville, according to law enforcement officials.

Police initially said the shooter was a woman. They later identified the shooter as Audrey Hale, 28. Police said Hale identified as transgender, and had both a “manifesto” and map of the school at her residence. Hale was previously a student at the school, had no known criminal record, and obtained at least two of the guns legally in the Nashville area.

In remarks during a small business summit at the White House, Biden addressed the still-developing situation in Nashville, noting, “We’re still gathering the facts of what happened and why.”

Biden called the known fatalities “heartbreaking, a family’s worst nightmare.” The president also said he wanted to commend the police who responded “swiftly” to the attack and that his heart goes out “to so many parents out there.”

“We have to do more to stop gun violence,” said Biden, a Catholic, adding that gun violence is “ripping our communities apart.”

According to images shared by police, Hale used a 9mm pistol, and two short barrel military-style semiautomatic weapons with magazines, including a foldable carbine and an “AR-pistol” with ammunition designed for the combat needs of the U.S. military’s M4 carbine rifle.

Police said the shooting was first reported at 10:13 a.m. and the suspect was pronounced dead by 10:27 a.m., local time. Hale was immediately engaged by police on the second floor of the building.

“We have to do more to protect our schools so they aren’t turned into prisons. You know, the shooter in this situation reportedly had two assault weapons and a pistol … So I call on Congress again, to pass my assault weapons ban,” Biden said.

Biden announced March 14 he would sign an executive order aiming to increase the number of background checks on prospective gun buyers, as well as measures to promote red flag laws and the secure storage of firearms.

At the time, the White House argued that ensuring all lawful background checks take place on prospective buyers will bring the U.S. as close to universal background checks as possible without the passage of new legislation.

An assault weapons ban or universal background check legislation both face unlikely odds in a divided Congress, where Republicans hold a narrow majority in the House, and where Democrats have a narrow majority in the Senate and would have to overcome a potential filibuster.

Last year, Biden signed the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, a narrow gun safety bill that expanded the background check system for prospective gun buyers under 21 years old, closed a provision known as the “boyfriend loophole,” banning domestic abusers from purchasing firearms regardless of their marital status, and funded new investments in mental health resources.

That legislation came as the result of long-sought bipartisan compromise on gun violence in the wake of a mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, that left 19 children and two teachers dead.

In a tweet, Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, a Catholic Republican who represents Tennessee’s 3rd Congressional District in the eastern portion of the state, wrote in a tweet March 27 that “Brenda and I are heartbroken to hear about the shooting at Covenant School in Nashville.”

“We are grateful for our brave police and first responders who selflessly responded and are still onsite,” Fleischmann wrote. “Please join us in praying for everyone affected by this tragedy.”