By Daniela Morales, 10th Grade
On March 27, 2023, The Covenant School—a private Christian school located in Nashville, Tennessee—was attacked by 28-year-old shooter Audrey Elizabeth Hale, a former student who killed six people. Three of the victims were nine-year-old students: Hallie Scruggs, William Kinney, and Evelyn Dieckhaus. The other three were staff members: Katherine Koonce, who was the chief of the school; Cynthia Peak, a substitute teacher; and Mike Hill a custodian. This event also ended with the shooter dead, as police intervened and killed him 14 minutes after the shooting was reported to authorities.
Now, family members and the Nashville community are filled with grief while police officers are trying to fit the pieces of the puzzle they have while simultaneously finding the missing ones. As of now, media outlets like CNN, who have received information from the Metro Nashville Police Chief John Drake all have the same information. Audrey Hale had an emotional disorder—though there’s no mention of which one specifically—and his parents were not aware that he owned guns at the moment, just that he had one in the past but had sold it. The fact was, not only did Audrey own guns, but he owned seven, three of which he used to carry out the shooting.
Police haven’t yet found a reason behind the shooting nor an indicator that Hale’s victims were selected. The two main pieces of evidence that this attack was premeditated are Audrey Hale’s journal and the testimony of a childhood friend. In his journal, Hale had a map of the school and written descriptions of his plan. The morning of the shooting, he texted a childhood friend named Averianna Patton, who gave her testimony to CNN. Averianna had not spoken for a long time when suddenly Audrey texted that morning, saying he was “planning to die today” and that it would be showcased on the news.
He also left her with more terrifying messages like: “One day this will make more sense” and “I’ve left more than enough evidence behind. But something bad is about to happen.” Worried about her long-lost friend, Averianna called a suicide prevention hotline and the county’s police office, but it was too late. After having killed six people, Audrey was prevented from entering the school’s second-floor classrooms by police officers who shot him until they were sure he was down.
After this shooting, many news outlets referred to Audrey with female pronouns because it was assumed he was a female. Some even did articles about how this was the first shooting conducted by a female shooter, while other outlets, such as The New York Times explained how Audrey became the fifth female perpetrator of a shooting in the United States. However, when authorities went digging deeper, they found that Aubrey was identified as a transgender male on his Instagram account.
You may be wondering: why does gender identity matter when it comes to a shooting? The thing is that the identity of the shooter changes people’s perspectives a lot. When it’s a male shooter, Americans don’t find it generally surprising because 98% of shootings have been conducted by cisgender men (Logan, 2023). When it’s a female shooter, they find it rare because not many women have been convicted of this crime before. But when it’s a transgender person, regardless of the gender they transitioned to, a lot of people view the individual actions of this person as the actions of the whole transgender community. It’s unfair, and because of how judgmental people are, transgender people in Nashville are already and will continue to face repercussions for Hale’s actions.
CBC reports that this will heighten the insecurity trans people face in Nashville, where there are more than four-hundred pieces of legislation at odds with the LGBTQ community—a law to restrict drag performances is even being considered—and people’s hatred is being fed with taglines like “Transgender killer targets Christian school”, trying to paint religion and sexual identities on opposite sides of the spectrum. I firmly believe that the shooter’s gender identity should not be associated as a behavior of the transgender community but as the product of a country with weak gun control.
Many people have pointed out that even if Hale had been reported to the police with more time, there’s hardly nothing they could have done because Tennessee doesn’t have a red-flag law. A red-flag law allows for authorities to withdraw the arms a person owns if a court determines them to be a threat to themselves or others. Even a red-flag law does not provide a truly effective measure, because many shooters do not reveal themselves as a shooter until the moment they’re doing it, so before then, how would a court deem them dangerous? The United States is a country where children’s leading cause of death cause is gun violence, and this will continue to be a fact until the legislators and government implement the gun control the people need.
Schmall, E. (2023, March 27). Most mass shooting suspects are male. The New York Times. Retrieved April 2, 2023, from https://www.nytimes.com/2023/03/27/us/woman-shooter-nashville.html
Olson, E. (2023, March 29). 4 big questions about the Nashville School shooting (and what we know so far). NPR. Retrieved April 2, 2023, from https://www.npr.org/2023/03/29/1166804786/nashville-school-shooting-covenant-hale
Levenson, E., Alonso, M., & Salahieh, N. (2023, March 29). Covenant school shooter was under care for emotional disorder and hid guns at home, police say. CNN. Retrieved April 2, 2023, from https://edition.cnn.com/2023/03/28/us/covenant-school-shooting-nashville-tennessee-tuesday/index.html
NBCUniversal News Group. (2023, March 28). Six killed, including three children, in Tennessee school shooting. NBCNews.com. Retrieved April 2, 2023, from https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/live-blog/nashville-school-shooting-covenant-live-updates-rcna76861
Levenson, E., Winter, J., & Salahieh, N. (2023, March 30). ‘our heart is broken,’ Nashville mayor says as city comes together to grieve 6 killed in school shooting. CNN. Retrieved April 2, 2023, from https://edition.cnn.com/2023/03/29/us/covenant-school-shooting-nashville-tennessee-wednesday/index.html
CBC/Radio Canada. (2023, April 1). Trans people already fighting for rights in Tennessee have a new fear in the wake of a tragedy | CBC news. CBCnews. Retrieved April 2, 2023, from https://www.cbc.ca/news/world/nashville-shooting-transgender-rights-1.6797599