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Lawmakers react after Nashville school shooting

After a shooter killed six at a Nashville school, some lawmakers promoted current gun safety legislation, with others urging an assault weapons ban.
Posted at 7:51 PM, Mar 27, 2023

A Nashville community is reeling after police say 28-year-old Audrey Hale entered the city's The Covenant School armed with two assault-style rifles and a handgun, shooting and killing three children and three adult staff members on Monday. 

Lawmakers in Washington reacted by highlighting current gun safety legislation that has passed while urging for more, including a ban on assault weapons. 

Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois said during a Monday Senate floor speech that more needs to be done. 

Durbin said, "We already know what must be done to keep our children and communities safe from deadly shootings. I strongly support bills to ban assault weapons from civilian use, and to close gaps in our background check system."

President Joe Biden said Monday, "We have to do more to stop gun violence," and said the problem is "ripping our communities apart" and "ripping at the very soul of the nation."

Republican Sen. Susan Collins told Nathaniel Reed of Scripps News on Monday that while she is pleased that the last Congress passed what she called "the most comprehensive gun safety legislation in many years," she said the tragedy in Nashville shows the need for further mental health services and for "beefing up security at schools."

Sen. Collins said while she didn't have many details on Monday as the situation unfolded in Nashville, she said she is "always open to ideas that people have," but that she was still waiting to learn more about the situation. 

Republican Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa said, when asked if there should be more laws governing gun control, "It's really hard to know at this point."

Children and a man at a reunification center following a school shooting in Nashville, Tennessee

Victims of Nashville school shooting range in age from 9 to 61

The six victims include three students and three staff members at The Covenant School.

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Republican Sen. Rick Scott of Florida pointed to legislation on guns that his state passed, when asked if he would be supportive of additional gun safety measures. 

In January, lawmakers in Florida pushed to expand the state's "red flag" law, which tries to prevent firearms from getting into the hands of those who would pose a thread to themselves or others. 

Republican Sen. John Thune of South Dakota said he needed more facts about the shooting in Nashville before he could offer an opinion on more gun legislation in this Congress. 

Sen. Thune called the shooting at the school "horrific" and said he was waiting to learn more about how the shooter acquired the weapons along with other details. 

The Associated Press reported that at least two of the firearms used by the shooter at a Christian school in Nashville were believed to have been legally obtained in the Nashville area, police said. 

When asked about expanding background checks and a ban to assault-style weapons, Sen. Thune said lawmakers have "taken action to expand background checks," and said there have been a number of steps that have been taken to expand on mental health services in schools. 

Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York offered his condolences Monday on the floor of the Senate calling the victims "Six people, three children, who won’t be coming home today to their families, to their friends, to their lives."

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says firearm deaths "continue to be a significant and growing public health problem" in the U.S.

The CDC said the rate of homicides by firearm in 2020 was the highest that had been recorded in over 25 years. 

Scripps News' Nathaniel Reed contributed to this report.