Green Hills church hosts gun safety discussion in aftermath of Covenant School shooting

Panelists lead conversation centered around gun safety, gun legislation, mental health and this year’s special legislative session.
WSMV4's Danielle Jackson reports.
Published: May. 22, 2023 at 10:26 PM CDT
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WSMV) - Dozens of people sat on the pews inside of Woodmont Christ Church Monday evening to sit in on a forum on the topic of gun safety.

The gun safety conversation was led by three panelists: Dr. Alex Jahangir, former U.S. Senator Dr. Bill Frist, and Rev. Dr. Clay Stauffer. Community members, including Woodmont Christian Church members and others from various organizations, listened to the conversation called, ‘After Covenant: Faith, Guns, and Protecting Tennesseans.’ A public dialogue to discuss gun safety after the school shooting where six people, including three children, died on March 27.

Jahangir, a level one trauma orthopedic surgeon at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, shared his perspective on what it’s like providing care to gun violence patients. He gave an example of how car deaths decreased after laws were put in place.

“Guns are killing people just like cars did back then. We will never get to a point where that doesn’t happen just like. Just like we’ll never get to a point where cars. There will always be motor vehicle fatalities, but we can do better if we just step back and think of pragmatic ways to keep our kids and others safe just like we did for cars 40 years ago,” Jahangir said.

Frist, a medical doctor and former Majority Leader for the U.S. Senate said it’s an issue that’s growing and it’s time for us to act on it.

“These guns and these weapons are the number one cause of death for people under the age of 19. That’s never been seen in any other country in history but it’s occurring today and it’s increasing,” Frist said.

Rev. Dr. Clay Stauffer pastors Woodmont Christian Church. His members Katie and Mike Dieckhaus were impacted by the school tragedy, losing their daughter Evelyn Dieckhaus.

“You all have continued to show us how to be beacons of light strength and love. Like our Evelyn,” Katie Dieckhaus said as she addressed the crowd.

Stauffer said as the role of a pastor, and pastoring others who were also impacted by the Covenant School shooting, he wanted to bring people together to bring change.

“I just can’t sit back. For me, it’s a moral issue that we have to try and do something different. I believe our children deserve better. I believe our communities deserve better,” Stauffer said.

Their conversation centered on gun safety, gun legislation, mental health, and this year’s special session. They also discussed ways people can get involved like reaching out to their prospective state representatives and senators.

“If you want to change this politicization, this understanding you need to have your hand up, and then you need to write a letter to them tomorrow, if not how is it going to change,” said Frist.

Several members of Voices for a Safer Tennessee, a grassroots non-partisan organization dedicated to prioritizing common sense firearm safety, attended tonight’s forum.

Jennifer Hellner, one of the organization’s co-founders, said she’s hopeful this conversation will stay at the forefront as legislators head into a special legislative session in August.

“The message that we would have for lawmakers going into special session is to genuinely listen to the people of Tennessee, pay attention to the polls. The overwhelming majority of Tennesseans, both Republican and Democrat gun owners and non-gun owners are all in agreement that we need to revamp, revise, and put some more thought into the laws,” Hellner said as her message to lawmakers ahead of August’s special session.

To watch the entire forum, click here.