Gun control activists have a new villain to point to in the wake of the shootings at Nashville’s Covenant School on Monday; constitutional carry. Moms Demand Action founder Shannon Watts is one of several anti-gun activists who’ve been pointing the finger at Tennessee’s permitless carry law, insinuating that without the law the shooting never would have happened.
“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.
Ms Watts criticised lax gun rules.
“SCHOOL SHOOTINGS ARE NOT ACTS OF NATURE,” she tweeted. “They are senseless, preventable acts of man enabled by weak gun laws and lawmakers. This doesn’t have to be our new normal. Our children don’t have to be sacrificed in exchange for gun industry profits. We can stop this.”
MSNBC’s Haynes Brown chimed in with similar arguments, pointing again to permitless carry along with several other pro-2A bills under consideration in the Tennessee legislature this year.
The state already has few restrictions in place as it is: no waiting period between between purchasing and receiving a firearm; no license or permit required to own a gun; no need to register a gun with the state; no need for a permit to carry a handgun, open or concealed, if you’re over the age of 21.
And yet Tennessee Republicans are still trying to remove the barriers that remain. As part of a settlement in a lawsuit from the Firearms Policy Coalition, Tennessee Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti cut a deal in January that made it legal for 18-year-olds to openly carry firearms. Last week, the state Senate passed a bill to codify that agreement into law. State Rep. Chris Todd, who supports the Senate bill, has called it a “civil right,” ignoring arguments that expanding access to guns for teenagers could lead to more killings.
That matches with the rhetoric around “constitutional carry,” the gun lobby’s lofty way of saying that no permit should be needed to carry a concealed firearm. The doctrine is the basis of another bill that Todd is backing that would allow open-carry of any firearm, including high-powered rifles. Even testimony against the bill from the Tennessee Highway Patrol and the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security hasn’t dimmed support from Republicans.
The cowardly killer who targeted elementary school kids at the Covenant School had a manifesto, maps, and had committed a lot of time and planning to commit mass murder. Do gun control activists like Watts really believe that if Tennessee wasn’t a permitless carry state they would have called the whole thing off? I highly doubt it. In fact, it sounds like the killer actually scouted out a second location for another attack, but decided against it because there was too much security. They were looking for as soft a target as possible to carry out their monstrous plot.
No, this is yet another example of Watts playing politics with an unspeakable tragedy. Florida is set to approve its own permitless carry law this week, and anti-gun activists are already starting to create a narrative that they can deploy as a last ditch effort to derail the bill, or at the very least deploy when Gov. Ron DeSantis signs the bill into law. Permitless carry had nothing to do with Monday’s school shooting, but anti-gun activists need the public to be terrified over the prospect of Florida becoming the 26th permitless carry state, so that’s what they’re running with.
We’ll be talking more about this false narrative on today’s Bearing Arms’ Cam & Co with BA contributor Ryan Petty, who has become a staunch advocate for school safety after his daughter Alaina was murdered at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 2018. Ryan agrees with Watts on one point: these attacks are preventable, but not through more gun control laws. We’ll be talking about the substantive steps that schools can take to harden up security, as well as the importance (and ability) to recognize and respond to these threats before they are carried out.