It’s a headline that’s all too common in America, a country with more than one mass shooting per day: a mass shooter has killed multiple people using an assault-style rifle.
The deadliest mass shootings in America in recent years have all involved assault rifles, including Las Vegas, Orlando, Sandy Hook, El Paso, Uvalde, Parkland, and Aurora, according to the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.
The high-powered weapons of war were once banned by Congress, but since the ban lapsed, they’ve continued to show up again and again. Now, Nashville joins the list of communities changed by such a shooting.
On Monday, officers fatally shot an armed individual who killed six people, including three children, in a massacre at a Christian elementary school in Nashville, Tennessee, according to police.
“The shooter was engaged by MNPD and is dead,” the Metro Nashville Police Department said in a statement of the incident at Covenant Presbyterian School.
Nashville police said on Monday the shooter was a 28-year-old Nashville native named Audrey Hale, a former student at the school.
Police have identified the suspected shooter by their name at birth; Hale reportedly was a transgender man who used he/him pronouns, though law enforcement officials initially described the suspect as a woman in the aftermath of the shooting. Police did not provide another name but on the suspect’s social media accounts they refer to themselves as Aiden.
“We know that she was armed with at least two assault-type rifles and a handgun,” a police spokesperson said during a press briefing on Monday. Officials later added two of those three weapons were obtained legally.
The victims of the shooting are Evelyn Dieckhaus, Hallie Scruggs, and William Kinney, all around age 9; and Cynthia Peak, age 61; Katherine Koonce, age 60; and Mike Hill, age 61, according to the Nashville police department. The victims included students, school officials, a substitute teacher, and a custodian.
Officers are investigating an address linked to Hale, and located a vehicle which helped give them evidence, according to Nashville police chief John Drake. Police have also spoken with the shooter’s father.
“I was literally moved to tears to see this as the kids were being ushered out of the building,” Mr Drake told reporters on Monday.
Officers shot Hale about 15 minutes after the department received a call about an active shooter at 10.13am.
“They immediately went to the gunfire,” a police spokesperson said.
Police said in a press conference on Monday afternoon that Hale was able to forcibly enter a door on the first floor of the school, where shots were fired, then continue up to a second level, where police fatally wounded the gunman.
In the course of their investigation into Hale, police have discovered writings, maps of entryways into the school, and apparent surveillance attempts in the run-up to the attack.
In the confrontation with the alleged mass shooter, an officer was injured in the hand by broken glass, a fire department official said at a media briefing.
Three “pediatric patients were transported to Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt, all having suffered gunshot wounds,” Vanderbilt University Medical Center spokesperson John Howser told NBC News. “All three were pronounced dead after arrival.”
The Nashville office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is deploying resources to assist police with their response to the shooting, Fox News reports.
The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation also sent agents to the scene.
Ambulances and armoured police vans were stationed around the school.
Armed SWAT officers were also seen patrolling woods near the school.
The TBI said on Twitter on Monday “there is no current threat to public safety.”
The Covenant School is a private religious school located on the campus of Nashville’s Covenent Presbyterian Church, and is next door to a Nashville Fire Department station, according to USA Today.
The school, founded in 2001, is located in the wealthy Green Hill neighbourhood, and has 33 teachers and roughly 200 students, according to the Associated Press.
The school’s motto is “Shepherding Hearts, Empowering Minds, Celebrating Childhood.”
Children were seen being led away from the school in a line by police.
Police said on Monday that there were no Nashville police officers stationed at the school.
“This is a church that operates a private school,” an MNPD spokesperson said on Monday. “There were no metro police personnel assigned to that school of any kind.”
A family reunification centre is open at Woodmont Baptist Church on 2100 Woodmont Boulevard. Parents at the scene of the shooting were seen running trying to find their children with tears in their eyes, according to WSMV.
In 2022, the school ran an active shooter training programme, according to WTVF.
Shannon Watts of gun safety advocacy group Moms Demand Action said Tennessee governor Bill Lee is responsible for increasing the risk of gun violence in the state, after signing a 2021 bill allowing for permitless carry.
“Tennessee [Governor Bill Lee] hasn’t had time yet to tweet his thoughts and prayers for Covenant School, but when he does, remind him that this is exactly why police and citizens opposed the permitless carry bill he signed into law at a gun maker’s factory in 2021,” she wrote on Twitter.
Joe Biden sounded a similar note, calling on Congress to reinstate the assault weapons ban.
“We have to do more to stop gun violence,” he said in remarks at an event on Monday. “It’s ripping our communities apart. It’s ripping at the very soul of the nation. We have to do more to protect our schools so they aren’t turned into prisons.”
“I call on congress again to pass my assault weapons ban,” he added. “It’s about time that we began to make more progress.”