Bishop Barber

Bishop William Barber II speaks at the McKendree United Methodist Church in Nashville, Tennessee on April 17, 2023.

(Photo: Middle Church/Twitter)

Bishop Barber Leads Nashville 'Moral Monday' Rally Ahead of Vote to Arm Teachers

"It's simply insane to watch our children get killed and look to guns for an answer," the Poor People's Campaign co-chair said, criticizing a bill that would let faculty members carry firearms in schools.

As Tennessee's Republican-controlled House of Representatives prepared to vote on a bill that would allow teachers to carry guns in schools, hundreds of faith leaders and other demonstrators rallied outside the state Capitol in Nashville to protest gun violence and demand lawmakers enact firearm control legislation.

Led by Bishop William Barber II, the "Moral Monday" rally preceded debate by Tennessee state lawmakers over H.B. 1202, which would empower faculty members with enhanced carry permits to carry concealed handguns on school grounds, including in classrooms.

"Have these deaths scared us to life yet?"

Participants in the Moral Monday march carried mock caskets and an urn representing victims of last month's mass shooting at the Covenant School in Nashville, in which three 9-year-old children and three adults were murdered. Other demonstrators carried signs with messages including "Faith without action is dead" and "Every day, 120 people in America are killed with guns."

"Have these deaths scared us to life yet?" Barber asked the audience gathered at McKendree United Methodist Church in downtown Nashville. "It's simply insane to watch our children get killed and look to guns for an answer."

"It's never about just one issue," the Repairers of the Breach and Poor People's Campaign co-chair continued. "You are here today and you care about banning assault weapons and dealing with guns. You can't say you care about that and you're willing to be on the frontline about that, but you're not on the frontline about voter suppression."

Monday's demonstration came nearly two weeks after Tennessee Republican state lawmakers voted to expel Reps. Justin Jones (D-52) and Justin Pearson (D-86) for interrupting a floor session to demand legislative action on gun control. Both lawmakers were subsequently reinstated by municipal councils; days after returning to the House, Pearson introduced legislation that would tighten firearm ownership rules.

Bill Lee, Tennessee's Republican governor and a staunch Second Amendment supporter, surprised many observers by signing an April 11 executive order strengthening background checks for firearm purchases. Lee—whose wife lost her best friend in the Covenant School shooting—also advocated for a so-called "red flag" law that would empower authorities to remove guns from people deemed dangerous.

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