The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

Vanderbilt students organize walkout for gun control, honor victims of Covenant School shooting

Students organizers plan a city-wide school walkout against gun violence for April 3.
Amelia Simpson
Peabody Administration Building and Vanderbilt University Medical Center, as photographed March 30, 2023. (Hustler/MultimediaAmelia Simpson)

Student organizers working with March for Our Lives, Students Demand Action Vanderbilt and Vanderbilt College Democrats are joining students from colleges and high schools across Nashville to plan a city-wide walkout for April 3. Students are also advocating for gun control, including stronger restrictions on gun sales. 

This past week, community members attended a city-wide candlelight vigil for the victims on March 29 and included appearances by First Lady Jill Biden, Sheryl Crow and other performers, public officials and a group prayer. They also marched to the Tennessee State Capitol building, demanding lawmakers take legislative action to prevent gun violence.

The university will also hold a gathering on April 4 at 4 p.m. CDT at the Wyatt Rotunda in honor of the Covenant School shooting. 

Student mobilization 

Student organizers working with March for Our Lives National are organizing a “Nashville Student Walk Out” for April 3. The walkout is set to begin at 10:13 a.m. CDT— the same time at which the shooting at The Covenant School began a week prior— and will culminate at the State Capitol Building at 10:45 a.m. CDT. VSG is providing students with a Lyft code (VSG04032023) that can be used for discounted rides.

Vice Mayor of Nashville Jim Shulman and Parkland gun reform advocate Manuel Oliver will be in attendance. Organizers have asked participating Vanderbilt community members to congregate at Peabody Lawn across from the University School of Nashville campus at 10:13 a.m. CDT to walk together. 

Senior Brynn Jones, a legal associate for March for Our Lives’ national team and co-organizer of the walkout, explained that the Covenant School shooting signaled a wider problem with gun violence in Tennessee. She said she has lost multiple classmates to gun violence. 

“Nashville is my home, and it is being plagued with violence: the Waffle House shooting, the Christmas bombing, thousands of guns stolen out of cars, the most incarcerated zip code in the country and now this,” Jones said. “I’m disgusted by their behavior, and frankly embarrassed to be a Tennessean at this moment.”

First-year Ezri Tyler, who is co-organizing the walk-out with Jones, added that she feels like gun violence was “inescapable” and that it “followed her here” when she moved to Nashville from Arizona for college. Tyler added that the walkout is intended to advocate for legislative change and give students an opportunity to take action.

“In times of tragedy such as this, the most impactful thing the community can do is show out; apathy and complacency allow for corruption and violence to continue,” Tyler said. “Tennessee lawmakers have passed incredibly damaging laws banning drag and trans care in the name of protecting kids but are unwilling to act on what kills every day: guns. Our message is this: It’s not drag queens, it’s not books, it’s guns.”

Student leaders with the Vanderbilt chapter of Students Demand Action, who are supporting the walkout on April 3, said they hope to push lawmakers to take action in light of the shooting. 

“Going to school shouldn’t be a death sentence,” sophomore Iman Omer, a Students Demand Action organizer from Nashville, said. “Until we can all be safe in our schools and everywhere else, we will continue to show up and demand action so our biggest worry at school can be studying, not losing our lives.” 

Vanderbilt College Democrats President Claire Reber, a junior, urged faculty to join students in walking out on April 3. 

“VCD hopes that Vanderbilt will use its incredible influence in the city of Nashville and the state of Tennessee to openly demand better legislation to protect its students and the children in our community,” Reber said. 

More calls for legislative change

Maddie Amberg (‘22), who helped organize a city-wide protest against gun violence in June 2022, said she is “appalled” by how little progress has been made since actions like hers took place. 

“To the Republican lawmakers who continue to halt any legislation regarding making our communities safer through an assault weapon ban: Those 9-year-olds’ blood is on your hands. Good luck washing it off,” Amberg said. 

Sophomore Sam Bartlet said he is frustrated with Tennessee laws, which currently allow rifles and shotguns to be purchased by anyone over 18 and to be carried without a permit with few restrictions.

“​​I’m absolutely disgusted that our state and nation’s politicians stand by and watch these tragedies happen all the time and, yet, still go to sleep every night without a plan to do anything,” Bartlet said. “Children have the most untapped creativity and potential in the world, and they deserve the chance and the right to go to a safe place to foster that creativity and to grow in knowledge.”

Senior Rahan Arasteh suggested that reinstating a ban on assault weapons would be a start to necessary policy change. Former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R) successfully advocated for letting the assault weapons ban expire in 2004.

“Banning assault rifles while improving social services would help stop kids from being shot in schools,” Arasteh said. “The fact that we don’t have the political ability to do that in this country shows the rapid decline of our political discourse.”

Sophomore Will Ford said administrative leaders, not just students, should feel an impetus to take action after this “sickening” tragedy. He added that the university-wide meeting held on March 29 was an important first step.

“Rather than offering superficial condolences, I urge administrators to avoid making empty promises,” Ford said. “Chancellor Diermeier: You reminded us this fall semester to ‘dare to grow;’ now, it’s your turn. Use your power, your voice and your privilege to, for once, take a side, champion basic humanity, and save impressionable lives.”

Ford emphasized that administrative responses should go beyond consolation, and urged administrators to “take a stance.”

“[Diermeier] works alongside lawmakers, yet persists with his sweeping “blanket” statements for crowd appeasement,” Ford said. “The current legislative landscape related to gun control is killing children, plain and simple.”

The university did not respond to The Hustler’s request for comment about these claims.

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About the Contributors
Aaditi Lele
Aaditi Lele, Former Editorial Director
Aaditi Lele ('24) is majoring in political science and climate science with a minor in South Asian Language and Culture in the College of Arts and Science. She previously served as News Editor. Outside of The Hustler, you can find her crocheting, practicing calligraphy or counting down the days until she can see her dog. She can be reached at [email protected].    
Amelia Simpson
Amelia Simpson, Staff Photographer and Graphics Staffer
Amelia Simpson ('25) hails from Brisbane, Australia and is a student in the College of Arts and Sciences majoring in public policy. Outside of her work in the Hustler’s multimedia sections, Amelia is a member of the club rowing and equestrian teams. You can reach her at [email protected]
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