Three children and three adults were killed on Monday at a private elementary school in Nashville, Tennessee, in a tragedy whose circumstances are still unclear but has brought the debate about gun violence back to the fore in the country.
The person who committed the new bloodbath was killed very quickly by the police who arrived on the scene; the police spoke of a woman, transgender, 28 years old, named Audrey Hale; she had a clean criminal record.
He entered the small private Christian educational institution in the capital of Tennessee "The Covenant School" yesterday morning, armed with two assault rifles and a pistol, shooting through a glass door.
He went to the first floor of the educational institution, in which he had studied, shot and killed three children, two girls and a boy, aged between 8 and 9 years, and three adults, aged between 60 and 61 years.
BREAKING: *Sensitive Content*
Security footage released showing transgender Nashville shooter Audrey Hale driving & shooting her way into the school building.pic.twitter.com/HiivhcXd2r
— Collin Rugg (@CollinRugg) March 28, 2023
The name of one of the adult victims, Kathryn Koons, matches that of the school's principal, according to its website.
Police officers who immediately rushed to the scene neutralized the armed woman. She was pronounced dead about a quarter of an hour after the first call to police, according to her spokesman Don Aaron.
During the attack, one of the teachers was able to call her daughter. "He told me they were hiding in a closet and there were gunshots everywhere," Avery Myrick told local NBC television station WSMV4.
Although she said she was relieved her mother had survived, Ms Myrick added that it "hurts for the others" who had not received any calls, who had lost people.
Parents, mad with anxiety, went to a church in the hours that followed to pick up their children, who had been taken there.
The motive remains unknown, but Audrey Hale may have harbored a "grudge" against the school she attended, Nashville Police Chief John Drake said.
A "manifesto" was found during the search of her home, which referred to other potential targets, he said.
The text, a detailed plan showing "entrances" to the school and other "writings" were found in her car. All the evidence gathered indicates that this was a premeditated crime, he added.
US President Joe Biden did not hide his dismay at the "sick" crime and ordered the US flag to be flown at half-mast at the White House and all federal buildings until sunset on March 31 in tribute to the victims.
Gun violence is "tearing apart the very soul of our nation," the White House said, calling once again on Congress to ban the sale of assault rifles.
The octogenarian Democratic president has long called on the US Congress to ban, or at least impose more restrictions, on the possession of weapons that can kill many people in a short amount of time, but has run into denial from the Republican opposition.
"I am shocked and heartbroken by the tragic news from Covenant School," Republican Sen. Bill Haggerty said on Twitter.
While his colleague Marsha Blackburn called on her fellow citizens to "pray" for the victims.
But Roseanne Cash, the daughter of country music legend Johnny Cash, a songwriter and performer herself, came out extremely sharply against Ms. Blackburn, pointing out her relationship with the powerful National Rifle Association (NRA) lobby group: “You're voting against every common sense gun measure arriving at your desk, you've taken over $1 million from the NRA, you rank 14th in all of Congress in NRA contributions. You're not giving up on us pretending to be worried at all,” burst out Mrs. Cash.
There are roughly 400 million guns in the U.S., which accounted for more than 2020 total deaths—homicide, accidents and suicides—in 45.000, according to the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
And, for the first time this year, guns are the leading cause of death for youth ages 1 to 19, with 4.368 deaths, ahead of traffic accidents and drug overdoses, according to the CDC.
Massacres in schools seem like a negligible number compared to the total, but they are etched indelibly in the memory of many Americans.
Like the one in 2012 at the school in Sandy Hook, Connecticut (20 children dead), or the one in May 2022 in Uvalde, Texas (where 19 children and two teachers lost their lives).
Between these two tragedies, the 2018 massacre at a high school in Parkland, Florida sparked massive youth-led mass protests.
But despite the protests, Congress has never adopted serious reforms, which the NRA opposes.
Joe Biden's calls to ban assault rifles are unlikely to be heeded. After all, an ABC News/Washington Post poll in February showed that 51% of Americans oppose the idea, while only 47% favor it.
Tennessee no longer required a gun permit in 2021. Any resident of the state over the age of 21 can carry a gun, unless they have been convicted of a violent crime or drug trafficking.