NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — In the aftermath of a mass shooting at an elementary school in Texas, Rep. John Ray Clemmons, D-Nashville, is calling on state leaders to do more to address gun violence.
On Tuesday, 19 children and two adults were killed at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, a city about 85 miles west of San Antonio, when an 18-year-old gunman opened fire on a classroom.
Watch his full news conference in the video player below. Warning, graphic language may be heard.
"Over the last 24 hours, like many of you, my emotions have ranged from sadness to frustration to sheer anger and every emotion in between. These unfortunate occasions are incredibly challenging for all of us," Clemmons said. "Our hearts are still broken for those families who lost loved ones in Parkland, Santa Fe, Roseburg, Red Lake, Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook, Columbine, and the many other cities where school shootings have taken place across this country."
Clemmons said since the Columbine High School shooting in 1999, at least 554 children, educators and school staff have been victims of gun violence — 185 of which have died.
"This is a uniquely American problem. You do not see this happening elsewhere in the world at this frequency. Other parts of the world have issues that we have. They have mental health care issues that we have but only in America do you see the trends of gun violence and death that you see today," Clemmons said. "No part of our community is sacred or off limits to gun violence"
Clemmons listed a number of requests for the state legislature and Gov. Bill Lee. His first is that the flags on state property be lowered to half staff. "To drive in here today and see the flags flying high over the state capitol and over legislative plaza is offensive," he said. "We are better than that as a state."
The governor's office said a request was made for the flags to be lowered around 9 a.m. Wednesday morning.
"By order of the governor, and in accordance with the Presidential proclamation... flags over the State Capitol and all State Office buildings will be lowered to half-staff effective immediately and remain lowered until sunset on Saturday, May 28, 2022, in memory of those who lost their lives in a shooting at Robb Elementary School, Uvalde, Texas. Flags should be returned to full-staff on the following day."
- Statement made by the governor's office.
Second, Clemmons called on Gov. Lee to cancel his trip to the NRA convention. He also asked that taxpayer funding not be used to cover travel for state legislators to attend the NRA convention.
"Tennessee taxpayers should not be paying for our governor or my legislative colleagues to go to Texas and attend an NRA convention and continue to kowtow to those who threaten our communities," he said.
Third, he asked the governor to use his executive powers to freeze open carry laws and other similar state gun laws.
Lastly, he suggested Gov. Lee call a special session to repeal gun laws loosening restrictions on gun possession and concealed carry that were passed in recent years.
"Let's pass mental health care laws. Let's repeal bad laws that have facilitated this. Let's use the indicators we see in domestic violence to limit people's access to firearms. Let's repeal the open carry law and guns in trunk law," he said. "Let's take legislative action now. Not later, now. Not after another shooting, not after more deaths. Now."
Clemmons ended his statement by calling on voters to apply pressure on their representatives to pass laws addressing gun violence.