NASHVILLE— Tour stops have been announced for the second week of a bus tour featuring a coalition of Tennessee lawmakers, gun reform advocates and concerned citizens. The group is meeting with Tennesseans who want to address the state’s gun violence epidemic. They are traveling the state in a school bus with a clear message for Tennessee families: Our kids deserve better. 

Last week, Governor Bill Lee set the parameters for his announced special legislative session on public safety, but top Republican politicians made it clear that no substantive discussions on gun reform willtake place.  With gun violence now ranking as the leading cause of death for children in our state, advocates say our children and their safety must be priority one — and it’s time for lawmakers to take action.

Our Children Deserve Better, a 501(c)(4) organization, seeks to reduce gun violence in Tennessee and push for policies that will help better protect Tennessee’s children in their schools and neighborhoods. The organization has embarked on a multi-city bus tour leading up to the special session in Nashville on Aug. 21. Families will have an opportunity to share their opinions firsthand with state lawmakers in their own communities.

Despite the Republican block on all substantive, common sense legislation during the special session that could help prevent future school shootings, they have been invited to participate in the bus tour to hear directly from victims of gun violence and advocates for gun safety.

Rep. John Ray Clemmons, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, says the bus tour was borne out of the frustration, sadness and fear felt by thousands of parents and students following The Covenant School shooting in March and the countless other senseless acts of gun violence that continue to plague every community across this state.  

“Sitting in Nashville and spinning our wheels inside the Capitol while families across this state continue to worry about their children’s safety is not an option,” said Rep. Clemmons. “So far, we’ve had great conversations with people on all sides of this issue from Memphis to Clarksville.  I look forward to more productive discussions with families in their communities.” 

“Tennesseans from all walks of life have made it clear: they want lawmakers to work together passing reforms that save children’s lives by preventing gun violence before it happens,” said Sen. Raumesh Akbari, the Senate minority leader. “Our families shouldn’t have to live in constant fear that our children might not make it home from school. It’s time to put politics aside and work for the safety of every Tennessee family.”

This past week, the tour stopped in Memphis, Jackson, Dickson and Clarksville. The journey will end in Nashville at the State Capitol on Aug. 21, which will be the first day of the special session. Tomorrow, the bus will roll into Murfreesboro.  Additional locations for the second week of the tour are listed here: 

  • August 15, 5:30 p.m., Murfreesboro at Old Fort Park, 1025 Old Fort Pkwy.
  • August 16, 6 p.m., Chattanooga at Miller Park, 928 Market St.
  • August 17, 10:30 a.m., Athens at Market Park Pavilion, 106 S. Jackson St.
  • August 17, 12:30 p.m., Maryville at Southland Books and Cafe, 1505 E. Broadway Ave.
  • August 17, 7 p.m., Knoxville at West High School, 3300 Sutherland Ave.

Additional stops will be announced at a later date. 

Building pressure for reform

Since Republicans gained controlling power, the Tennessee General Assembly has loosened gun laws and abolished common sense gun safety reforms, such as mandatory gun safety classes and background checks for going armed, gun permits, and restrictions on carrying in many public places.

Giffords Law Center, a nonprofit research organization that tracks and analyzes legislation in all 50 states, issues an annual gun law scorecard. This year, Tennessee lawmakers earned an “F” for gun policies in state law. 

“Since we started this project in 2010, the evidence has been clear and consistent: strong gun laws save lives, but only in the states that are willing to act,” the Giffords website says.

Not coincidentally, gun violence has steadily increased over the last decade. The latest CDC research on gun violence shows that 1,569 Tennesseans — a record number — were killed by firearms in 2021.

That’s roughly one person dying from gunshot wounds every 5.6 hours.