Highland Park shooting survivor visiting Nashville delivers message at scene of school shooting
Since surviving the mass shooting on July 4, 2022, in Highland Park, Ashbey Beasley has traveled tens of thousands of miles fighting for stricter gun laws.
And not nine months later, her travels led her to the scene of yet another mass shooting — one that left six dead, including three 9-year-old children, on Monday, March 27, at The Covenant School in Nashville.
Beasley, a Highland Park resident, said she stopped in Nashville to visit her sister-in-law on a drive home from Washington, D.C. While at a local store, she received a panicked call from a friend whose son’s school, The Covenant School, was on lockdown.
Beasley and the friend went toward the school to find an active crime scene. They gathered with others behind a police-enforced perimeter bordering a parking lot, the setting for a press conference about the school shooting.
As the conference appeared to end, Beasley stepped into the foreground and addressed reporters, asking them if they are tired of reporting on gun violence and challenging lawmakers to pass stricter gun laws.
“How is this still this still happening? How are our children still dying and why are we failing them?,” she said in part on the scene. “… These shootings will continue to happen until our lawmakers step up and pass gun-safety legislation. … Aren’t you guys tired of this? Aren’t you sick of it?”
Beasley’s on-camera moment was syndicated internationally, appearing on CNN, MSNBC, BBC and plenty of other networks. The video clip has garnered more than 700,000 views across various YouTube channels.
In the wake of her viral moment, Beasley also appeared as a guest of Piers Morgan on Talk TV in a segment viewed online by another 121,000 users.
Beasley told The Record that she was not on site in Nashville to speak to reporters, but said she’s an “impulsive person” who reacted after hearing details of the incident.
During that news conference, a law enforcement official reported on the weapons used in the shooting, including two assault-style firearms. Beasley said she has lobbied in D.C. 12 times in the past nine months for a federal ban on such weapons.
“To see something like this unfold again and knowing how hard it is to pass federal legislation is just exhausting,” she said. “I just snapped. I snapped, especially after police said what kind of weapons were used. That pushed me over the edge.”
Beasley’s time near the scene of the Nashville shooting was not all caught on camera. She said she spoke with many of the people in that parking lot, many of whom were mothers and family members of individuals — whether children or educators — inside the school.
Being involved in similar conversations for the better part of a year, Beasley felt she could help, specifically because her child, 7-year-old Beau Beasley, was a survivor of a mass shooting.
“They were very upset,” she said. “It was like, how can I help? What can I do? And some asked if I had any advice. I said the sooner you can tell your child that they are safe and that the bad person is gone, the better it will be. As soon as I was able to say (to Beau) the shooter is in jail, he can’t hurt you anymore, there was definitely a feeling of relief.
“It was an odd thing to be there in a moment like that and knowing what to say and share. It was a surreal feeling.”
As part of State Rep. Bob Morgan’s contingent, Ashbey and Beau were participating in Highland Park’s Fourth of July parade last year, waiting their turn to march down Central Avenue, when gunshots rang out.
She said she did not realize what was happening until a wall of people — some with blood on them — began running away from the scene. Enveloped by chaos, Beasley and her son huddled together on the ground until her husband pulled up in a car and got them to safety.
Watching Beau cope with the trauma was one reason that Beasley joined the anti-gun-violence movement just one week later.
Since that time, she said she has met with more than 130 lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, lobbying for stricter federal gun laws, including an assault-weapons ban. More recently, Beasley — and many times Beau — has made trips independently and focused on meeting with Republican legislators, hoping to find bipartisan inroads.
She said she has found some success and is not slowing down any time soon.
“I think it’s important to address (Republican) concerns and speak their language. We desperately need bipartisan support to get this bill done,” Beasley said, adding, “Our lawmakers need to do something. Our gun culture is creating an international crisis. It’s gone beyond impacting American lives. It is toxic and out of control.”
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Joe Coughlin is a co-founder and the editor in chief of The Record. He leads investigative reporting and reports on anything else needed. Joe has been recognized for his investigative reporting and sports reporting, feature writing and photojournalism. Follow Joe on Twitter @joec2319