A police spokesman had just finished updating reporters on the mass killing at a Nashville school when Ashbey Beasley suddenly stepped up to the clutch of microphones and asked, “Aren’t you guys tired of covering this?”

She wasn’t an official or a member of law enforcement. She was a mom, she explained, who had grabbed her 6-year-old son and run months earlier when a gunman opened fire at a parade in Highland Park, Ill. Some TV stations cut away. Others continued rolling as Beasley, speaking quickly and forcefully, decried America’s epidemic of gun violence. She asked, “How is this still happening? How are our children still dying?”

“I just was like, ‘I have to say something,'” Beasley, 47, said in an interview with The Washington Post soon after. “Because I just feel like, how many more?”

She was in the vicinity of the Covenant School on Monday, supporting her friend Shaundelle Brooks, whose son’s nearby school went into lockdown amid the gunfire. It was gun violence that linked the two women in the first place: Brooks’s older son was killed in the 2018 shooting at a Waffle House in Antioch, Tenn., and they connected over their shared experiences.

Beasley, a Highland Park resident who was visiting family in Nashville, had planned to meet Brooks for lunch. Instead, Brooks called in a panic, terrified for her child’s safety once again.

“I couldn’t even fully process it,” Beasley said. “What do you say? Because only in America can you survive a mass shooting and go and make a friend who is the victim of a mass shooting and then go to meet that friend for lunch . . . and end up in the middle of another mass shooting event.”


Before July 4 of last year, Beasley was mainly a mom and a housewife, she said. As a Native American, she has long been vocal about issues affecting minorities. But she wasn’t involved in the push for gun control. Then she and her husband took their only child to a parade, and everything changed.

When she heard the shots ring out that day, Beasley thought it was odd someone was setting off fireworks. She only realized what was happening when everyone started running and screaming in what she described as “complete, absolute chaos.”

“My son had laid himself out on the ground and was just crying, ‘I don’t want to die, I don’t want to die’ – screaming it over and over again,” she recalled. “I had to get him up, get him moving.”

Nashville School Shooting

A police crime scene tape is seen at the entrance to Covenant School in Nashville, Tenn. on Monday. John Amis/Associated Press

Although they were physically unscathed, Beasley goes over the shooting constantly in her mind. And her son, now 7, is not the same little boy he once was. He’s angry, she said, and has lost his sense of safety: “He said to me, ‘I didn’t realize I could just die at any time.'”

It’s why she has devoted herself to trying to stop gun violence. In the months since seven people were shot to death at the Highland Park parade, Beasley has made trips to Washington, attending a congressional hearing with gunmakers, speaking to legislators and handing out fact sheets she made herself.

She spoke at news conferences, wrote about her activism for HuffPost and stood behind Gov. JB Pritzker, D-Illinois, as he signed new gun control legislation into law.


Her Twitter profile, where she describes herself as an “Activist with a keen interest in taking our country back – from the gun lobby,” features photos from meetings with lawmakers including Sen. Mark Kelly, D-Ariz., and Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., among others.

She often brings up issues she says will resonate with Republicans, and she did so again Monday, saying “assault weapons are contributing to the border crisis and fentanyl” deaths. She called on Americans to demand lawmakers “step up and pass gun safety legislation.”

Those are things, she said later, that “nobody talks about.”

As Beasley spoke, reporters turned and looked at her, some pulling out their phones to record. A photographer snapped a picture. A cameraman stepped closer for a shot of her. Later, footage of the impromptu news conference spread across Twitter.

Beasley’s phone has not stopped buzzing.

“I just started talking, and I figured, ‘Someone will listen,'” she said. “Someone listened.”

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