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Killing in a school in the United States: the motive still unknown, several targets were potentially targeted

Three children and three adults were shot dead on Monday at an elementary school in Nashville, in the southern United States, a drama whose circumstances are still unclear which has reopened the debate on the ravages of firearms in this country.

The individual who committed the bloodbath, quickly killed by officers arriving on the scene, was identified by police as a 28-year-old female and transgender person, going by the name of Audrey Hale, but her LinkedIn profile seems indicate a willingness to use masculine pronouns.

The assailant entered a small private Christian school in the capital of Tennessee, “The Covenant School”, in the middle of the morning, armed with two assault rifles and a pistol, shooting through a glass door.

He headed for the first floor of this establishment, which he had attended as a student, firing numerous shots and killing three children, aged 8 to 9, and three adults, aged 60 at 61 years old. The name of one of the victims, identified as Katherine Koonce, matches that of the school principal, according to the school’s website.

Quickly dispatched to the scene, officers immediately shot him dead and he was pronounced dead a quarter of an hour after the first call for help, according to police spokesman Don Aaron.

During the assault, one of the teachers managed to call her daughter. “She told me she was hiding in a closet and it was shooting everywhere,” Avery Myrick told local channel WSMV4. Relieved that her mother made it out alive, Avery Myrick said she was “hurting for all those” who lost their loved ones in the carnage.

Resentment against this school

Anxious parents marched all day through a church to pick up the sheltered children. On Monday evening, flowers were laid at a makeshift memorial outside the facility, where some people knelt in prayer. The motive, still unknown, could be linked to a “grudge” against this school, noted Nashville Police Chief John Drake.

The school, which was founded by the local Presbyterian Church, is housed on its premises, The New York Times reported. One of the children killed, the US newspaper said, was Hallie Scruggs, the daughter of church pastor Chadd Scruggs. A “manifesto” discovered during a search of Audrey Hale’s home pointed to other potential targets, Mr Drake added. This document, along with a plan “showing access” to the school and additional “writings” found in his vehicle, seem to indicate that the carnage was premeditated.

President Joe Biden has expressed his dismay at the “disgusting” crime and ordered the White House flags flown at half-mast. Gun violence “rips at the very soul of our nation,” he commented from the White House, calling again on Congress to ban assault rifles.

The Democrat has long pleaded for the US Parliament to prohibit, or at least restrict, the possession of these weapons designed to cause a maximum number of victims, but he comes up against the refusal of the opposition. “I am devastated and heartbroken over the tragic news from the Covenant School,” tweeted Republican Senator Bill Hagerty.

4,368 deaths among young people aged 1 to 19

About 400 million firearms are in circulation in the United States, where they caused, in 2020, more than 45,000 deaths by suicide, accident or homicide, according to the latest figures from the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control. (CDC). And for the first time that year, guns became the leading cause of death among young people aged 1 to 19, with 4,368 deaths, ahead of car accidents and overdoses, according to the CDC.

Bloodbaths in schools represent only a tiny portion, but mark the spirits more. The United States was particularly shaken by the carnage committed in 2012 in a school in Sandy Hook, Connecticut (20 children killed), and in May 2022 in Uvalde, Texas (19 children and two teachers). Between these two tragedies, a massacre committed in 2018 in a high school in Parkland, Florida, had led to a vast mobilization.

But Congress never passed meaningful reforms, fiercely opposed by the powerful National Rifle Association (NRA) lobby group. Joe Biden’s calls to ban assault rifles are hardly more likely to succeed. An ABC News/Washington Post poll from February showed that 51% of Americans oppose it and only 47% support it.

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