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Gun safety advocates plan human chain to honor Covenant School shooting victims

Thousands of people will form a 4-mile human chain Wednesday in Nashville, Tenn., to honor the anniversary of the Covenant School shooting and demonstrate their support of gun law reform.

The event’s nonprofit organizer, Voices for a Safer Tennessee, was created in the aftermath of the shooting by a group of Tennessee moms spurred to action. The group has called its work since then “a marathon.”

A year ago, a gunman broke into the Covenant School — a private, religious school serving pre-K through sixth grade students in Nashville — and killed six people, including three students, before being killed by police.

“We knew that our community was yearning for a way to come together, yearning for a way to show their support,” said Nicole Smith, vice chair of the organization’s board, during the Linking Arms for Change event. “And I think at the end of the day, we had faith that it would happen.”

This year will be the event’s second iteration, and Smith is anticipating more turnout than the first.

The event drew 10,000 people to participate last year, Smith said. The group aims to mobilize 13,000 people Wednesday.

Nashville became a testing ground in the larger national debate on gun restrictions and the Second Amendment. Rallies for immediate reform were fierce, two state legislators were expelled for protesting on the House floor, and a special session on school safety was called in response to the shooting.

Calls for action were met with a reluctant GOP in the red state, which has rebuffed requirements on firearm storage, red flag laws, stronger background checks or limits on who can access firearms — even measures proposed by Republican Gov. Bill Lee.

Voices for a Safer Tennessee was a fixture at the state Capitol, holding vigils and praying on its steps for 40 days during a special session on school safety.

There have been 83 mass shootings in the U.S. so far in 2024, according to the Gun Violence Archive. Mass shootings are defined as an event in which four or more people are shot, but not including the perpetrator.

“This event will demonstrate the hope felt by Tennesseans that together we can strengthen policies that will lead to safer communities across our state,” the group said in a statement on the event.

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