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Gun Safety Prompts Education Groups to Take Action

Tennessee students are preparing to protest current state and federal gun laws this month. (dagnyg/Flickr)
Tennessee students are preparing to protest current state and federal gun laws this month. (dagnyg/Flickr)
March 5, 2018

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee students are mobilizing for civic action this month with a school walkout and marches for changes in current gun laws.

The recent school shooting tragedy in Florida is also prompting organizations traditionally focused on education to become advocates for stricter gun control. Carol Burris, executive director at the Network for Public Education, said while her group was founded to preserve and strengthen public schools, it now finds itself working to secure the safety of the people in the buildings.

"We have never been involved in gun control issues in the past,” Burris said. “But we were just so overwhelmed with grief and with horror, we said as an organization, 'We have to get involved in this.'"

This month, Tennessee students will join other activists to protest current state and federal gun laws. The National Student Walkout is March 14, and the March for Our Lives is March 24.

Late last month, Tennessee lawmakers introduced HB 2208 in the legislature. The bill would allow a small number of teachers to carry guns on campuses.

The Network for Public Education has also declared April 20 a National Day of Action against gun violence in schools, on the anniversary of the 1999 Columbine High School shooting. Burris said while there's always public outcry after a mass shooting, this time feels different to her.

"We know that there is always a straw the breaks the camel's back. There comes a point in time where people rise up and they say, 'No more,’” she said. “And this is that moment with gun violence."

The American Civil Liberties Union has pledged to protect students' legal rights to peacefully protest at the March 14 and 24 events. Several Tennessee school systems have said they won't punish kids for walking out of school - other than recording an absence for the day.

Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - TN