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First lady Jill Biden visits Nashville for vigil honoring school shooting victims

Jill Biden attends vigil for Nashville victims
First lady Jill Biden attends vigil for Nashville school shooting victims 03:13

Washington — First lady Dr. Jill Biden attended a candlelight vigil on Wednesday evening in Nashville honoring the six victims of the shooting at the Covenant School earlier this week.

Biden did not make any remarks during the vigil, but Nashville Mayor John Cooper thanked her for "dropping everything and coming to Nashville" and President Biden for lowering flags to half-staff to honor the victims. Biden traveled to Nashville after a trip to Greene County, Ohio, where the first lady met with military families as part of her Joining Forces initiative.

"I so wish we did not need to be here, but we need to be here — together — as a community," Cooper said. "We can only get through this tragedy together." 

The first lady is the first representative from the White House to visit Nashville in the wake of Monday's shooting at the private Christian school located in the city's Green Hills neighborhood. Police identified the shooter as 28-year-old Audrey Hale, who they said was a former student at the school and legally bought seven firearms over the past few years, three of which were used in the attack. 

Body camera footage from police who responded to the shooting showed them taking down the assailant. 

Three children, all 9 years old, were killed, as were three adults who worked at the school: the students were Evelyn Dieckhaus, Hallie Scruggs and William Kinney, and the adult victims were identified as Cynthia Peak, 61, Katherine Koonce, 60, and Mike Hill, 61. Koonce is listed as the head of the Covenant School, Hill was a custodian and Peak worked as a substitute teacher.

"Our police officers have cried and are crying with Nashville and the world," police chief John Drake said at the vigil. "I have cried and continue to cry and I have prayed for Nashville as well." 

The shooting has again spurred calls from President Joe Biden and congressional Democrats for lawmakers to impose more restrictions on guns, and the president pressed Congress further to enact a ban on assault-style weapons.

"As you heard the president say throughout this week, we continue to call on Congress to act to pass an assault weapons ban, and take additional actions to make our kids and communities safer," White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said during Wednesday's White House press briefing when confirming the first lady's Nashville visit. 

But Republicans have suggested it's too early to consider taking legislative action to curb gun violence. With the GOP in control of the House, and Democrats holding 51 seats in the Senate, it's unlikely gun control measures would clear both chambers of Congress. 

Lawmakers approved a bipartisan bill last year that enhances background checks for gun buyers under 21 years old and provided billions of dollars for mental health services. But Democrats want more action, while Republicans have indicated there is little appetite for further tightening the nation's firearms laws.

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