TN women juggle jobs, babysitters to push for stricter gun laws at Capitol

Moms come to Capitol daily after Covenant School shooting to lobby for stricter gun laws.
WSMV4's Marissa Sulek reports.
Published: Apr. 21, 2023 at 9:04 PM CDT
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WSMV) - Tennessee lawmakers could be in for a late night as they try to wrap up this year’s session.

However, before they leave, little has been done to keep firearms out of the hands of dangerous people.

A group of moms and community members have been at the Tennessee State Capitol demanding stricter gun laws to keep their kids safe the last three weeks.

Since The Covenant School shooting, many people have walked through the Capitol who have never been inside before. For the group of women, it’s become their new office.

They’ve been sitting inside and outside the House and Senate galleries with signs demanding gun reform. They have jobs and kids, but they’ve hired babysitters for their new 9 to 5.

“It’s actually our 8 to 7,” says Katherine Merrill, a member of Voices for a Safer Tennessee. It’s a group that started with 20 members a few weeks ago and has grown to hundreds.

“I am a small business owner,” says Hillary Howorth, another member. “I am a full-time artist here in town and yes, I am putting work aside, doing what I can on my laptop in here, but putting on the wayside for the moment. But this is too important of an issue to not be here for.”

Voices for a Safer Tennessee organized a human chain that stretched for miles from Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt to the Capitol earlier this week for gun reform.

And that’s what they continue to push for inside the legislature.

“That is where we had some of the most productive conversations that three weeks ago, I could have never imagined that we would have,” says Merrill.

They are conversations with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, including Governor Bill Lee.

“None of us are politicians and none of us are lobbyists,” says Merrill. “For most of us this has been a very steep learning curve. But from what we have been told the Governor has stepped into a risky area, and we commend him and thank him for his support on this issue.”

“A lot of work still needs to be done in this arena,” says Whitney Kimerling. “And this is not an issue that can be tackled with one particular solution.”

They know their work is far from over. In fact, if a special session is called by Governor Lee, the women don’t plan to go anywhere.

“If they come back, we will come back,” says Howorth. “This is an important issue, and we will be here.”

WSMV4 reached out to Governor Lee’s office to see if he will call for a special session. WSMV4 has not heard back yet.