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Gun violence propels run for Tennessee state house

Published 02/07/2024, 12:47 PM
Updated 02/07/2024, 01:47 PM
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Shaundelle Brooks wears a pin of her son Akilah DaSilva, who was killed in the 2018 Waffle House shooting, following a House Rules Committee hearing ahead of the start of the 2024 legislative session months after the Covenant School shooting a

By Seth, Herald and Donna Bryson

NASHVILLE, Tennessee (Reuters) - A woman whose son was killed in a mass shooting at a Nashville restaurant in 2018 announced her run for a Tennessee state legislative seat on Wednesday, saying she would push for gun control.

"I am running for the other parents whose children didn't come back home. For our children who deserve to be safe in schools, in stores, movie theaters, parks and restaurants," Shaundelle Brooks, a former parole officer who lives in the Nashville area, told supporters gathered near the state capitol.

Brooks has been a gun control advocate since a gunman murdered her son, Akilah Dasilva, and three other people at a Nashville Waffle House in 2018.

Last summer, another son, Abede Dasilva, survived being shot, apparently by a stray bullet. Abede DaSilva introduced his mother at her campaign kickoff.

Among Brooks' inspirations is Georgia gun control advocate Lucy McBath, a former flight attendant who first won a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives in 2018.

McBath's son, Jordan Davis, was killed when a white man fired at a vehicle carrying four teens in a Jacksonville gas station parking lot in November 2012. The gunman complained the teens were playing music too loudly.

Brooks, who like McBath is Black and a Democrat, told Reuters before her announcement that she had never before thought of running for office. At one point she wasn’t even sure it was worthwhile to vote in a state where Republicans have held a supermajority of at least two-thirds of the seats in both houses of the state legislature since 2012.

Brooks said she was propelled out of disengagement after watching events at the state house last year following a Nashville school shooting that killed three 9-year-old children and three staff members.

In 2023, Tennessee state representatives Justin J. Pearson and Justin Jones, both of whom are Black and Democrats, were briefly expelled for leading a protest for gun control on the House of Representatives floor. A third representative who joined the protest, Democrat Gloria Johnson, who is white, was not expelled, leading to accusations of racism.

Brooks saw racism in the treatment of Pearson and Jones and said it inspired her to seek public office. Johnson, a U.S. Senate candidate, and Jones joined Brooks at her announcement on Wednesday.

Tennessee Republican representatives deny they are racist. They reject measures they see as undermining the U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment right to bear arms, including so-called red flag laws Brooks supports aimed at keeping guns from people deemed a threat to others or themselves.

© Reuters. Shaundelle Brooks who lost her son Akilah Dasilva to gun violence in 2018, when a gunman fatally shot him along with three other people in a Nashville Waffle House, announces her run for State House District 60 at Legislative Plaza, near the State Capitol in Nashville, Tennessee, U.S., February 7, 2024.  REUTERS/SETH HERALD

Political observers say Democrats are unlikely to make a dent in the Republican supermajority in November, when all Tennessee's 99 house seats will be contested.

Brooks is seeking a seat currently held by a Democrat who does not plan to run again.

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