Protesters at the Tennessee statehouse voiced frustration and anger Tuesday as lawmakers abruptly concluded the special session on public safety with little significant action.
“They saw the bodies – kids massacred by high-capacity automatic rifles,” Sarah Shoop Neumann, mother of a Covenant student said in a video posted online. “Do you know what that does to a child’s body? Because a 9-year-old knows what it does to a child’s body?”
Republican Gov. Bill Lee called the session in response to the Covenant School shooting in March which left three children and three adults dead.
Despite protests, the governor expressed a hopeful outcome.
“Four of our bills passed, significant funding was focused on issues that matter to public safety, improved the background check system, attacked human trafficking, made access for safe storage, we funded mental health across the state,” Lee said after the session ended. “We made progress.”
Neumann’s six-year-old son is a student at the school. She told CBN News that he and other students have been left traumatized by the deadly shooting.
“We’re watching our families – friends with kids, especially the third grade – that are just reeling in trauma. Their childhoods are just ripped apart,” said Neumann. “There’s pieces of those kids they’ll never get back, not to mention the families who lost their children.”
Neumann, who helped start the non-profit “Covenant Families for Brighter Tomorrows” is disappointed that lawmakers did not do more to protect students from potential future gun violence.
For months, the group has met with lawmakers and rallied for better gun storage measures and Constitutionally written extreme risk protection orders also known as red flag laws. In the end, the Republican supermajority could not muster enough support to even debate the idea.
“There are some that either refused or don’t see it as an urgent action,” said Neumann. “We just can’t understand that. This is urgent. It’s a public health crisis.”
As the weeklong debate played out, tempers flared leading to a brief physical confrontation between GOP House Speaker Cameron Sexton and Democrat Representative Justin Pearson, one of two state lawmakers expelled earlier this year.
The two accused each other of shoving within moments of the House chamber adjourning the special session.
“He started to yell and scream as though we had done something,” said Pearson. “Representative Jones was pushed by Representative Cepicky as well for holding signs and demanding that we protect kids and not guns.”
“Security put their hand on the back, which knocked me forward and I think, I can’t remember, there’s one photographer when you look at it that was to my left,” Sexton explained. “So we moved right and then at that point, we keep walking and then you have Representative Pearson that comes in and pops me from the right side.”
Meanwhile, Neumann applauds lawmakers who stood with Covenant parents as they continue their fight for greater school safety, even if that means voting those who refuse to change out of office.
“If they’re not able to do that in a way that represents the people, they do not deserve to have their seats,” said Neumann.