Statement by Forrest E. Harris, Sr., President, American Baptist College

March 28, 2023

The tragic killing of six people — three innocent nine-year-old children and three adults — at Nashville’s Covenant School is a deep hurt and gaping wound the citizens of this city will carry for a long time.

This gaping wound spans the country’s neighborhoods, grocery stores, marketplaces, public squares, colleges, and schools. Now, Nashville’s suburban Green Hill joins the list of communities where innocent lives have been lost in a culture of gun violence. It is our city’s darkest hour of grief and loss, facing the reality that there is no safe place for children in this country. America, the “land of the free and home of the brave,” has become a home of terror of assault weapons and is a violence-entrenched culture where no one is safe anymore. “Enough is enough” is the cry of Nashvillians, along with others who stand with citizens and families around the nation, calling for local and national governments to act.

The complexity of the problem includes, but goes beyond, restrictions on individual ownership of assault weapons, mental health screening, heightened security protection, and civic second amendment education. Indeed, these are needed actions.  But we are in a gestalt moment in the nation. There is a configuration or cultural pattern of brokenness, unresolved trauma, anger, and social and psychological rage so unified its properties cannot be identified from a simple summation of its parts. There is a need for paradigm change, a different way of seeing what democratic life together means in how we deal with the root problem of gun violence and create a safe America for children and families. In the darkest hours of our national grief and pain, we are determined to move beyond the impasse of this violent culture to the emancipative possibilities of transformation.  

Necessary legislative actions to reform gun laws and increase mental health and security services will only occur by compelling the power of the community, citizens, and people to action. In the aftermath and accumulation of deaths due to the freedom to purchase guns and assault weapons by mentally unstable persons, we are readied for gun law reforms to end a culture of repeated mass carnage. 

We need the communal network of love and compassion for each other for the journey ahead. Nashville’s collective hope is greater than Nashville’s hurt. Liberating hope and love are stronger than a gun violence culture that destroys the lives of innocent people.