NASHVILLE, Tenn. (RNS) — Monday’s shooting at The Covenant School, which left seven dead including the shooter, highlights a dual reality of life in Nashville, often known as the buckle of the Bible Belt. It’s a place where God is everywhere — and so are guns.
That tension is apparent in a drive along Interstate 65, headed south of Nashville. On the east side of the highway is a billboard that asks passersby to “Pray for Nashville,” with a heart in the middle of the message. A few doors down is a massive indoor shooting range.
Even as residents have prayed for the victims of the March 27 shooting — six students and staff — and reached out with love and kindness to grieving families, there’s historically been very little political support for restriction on the right to bear arms.
But in the wake of the state’s deadliest school shooting, Tennessee’s God and guns culture is coming under fire by outsiders and Nashville residents alike. Hundreds of protesters rallied at the Tennessee Capitol on Thursday, calling for reforms like red flag laws.
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Some made their way into the visitors’ gallery of the Tennessee House of Representatives, where they shouted “No justice, no peace” at the behest of several Democratic lawmakers, according to social media video posted by The Tennessee Holler, a local progressive news site.
After the shooting, Tennessee lawmakers put on hold a proposal to expand concealed carry rights for adults to carry any firearm, including rifles such as the AR-15, out of respect for the victims and their families.
But gun reform activists argue this is merely a delay tactic until the spotlight has moved on, at which point the majority Republic …