- A gunman killed six people, including three students, at The Covenant School in Nashville March 27.
- In comments made outside the U.S. Capitol, U.S. Rep. Tim Burchett said “we’re not gonna fix it. Criminals are gonna be criminals.” The comments set off a wave of backlash for the congressman.
- Burchett told Knox News he has been meeting with Democrats since making those comments. The focus, he said, is mental health reform, though, not a substantive ban on assault weapons.
U.S. Rep. Tim Burchett revealed in a one-on-one interview with Knox News on March 31 that he had been meeting with Democrats this week to find solutions to mass shootings, but the conversations haven’t created consensus.
The frustration he experienced in those bipartisan conversations following the March 27 killings at The Covenant School in Nashville led, in part, to his comment that “we’re not gonna fix it” when he was asked about how Congress can stop mass shootings.
“It’s a horrible, horrible situation,” Burchett said the day of the shooting, clad in his signature Carhartt jacket. “And we’re not gonna fix it. Criminals are gonna be criminals.”
A tweet showing video of Burchett’s interview outside the U.S. Capitol drew national attention, with nearly every mainstream news outlet across the country focusing on his tone of surrender. He was slammed by school safety advocates, and many said he showed a lack of awareness or sympathy ‒ or both.
Burchett stood by his comments, made in the hours after the March 27 shooting in which the gunman, armed with an AR-15 military-style rifle and two other guns, killed three 9-year-old children and three adults before being shot by police.
Later he said he does not see “any real role” for Congress in addressing gun violence other than to “mess things up.”
“If someone wants to take you out and doesn’t mind losing their life to do it, there’s not a whole heck of a lot you can do about it,” the third-term Knoxville Republican said.
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Burchett’s focus is mental health, not banning weapons
Knox News sat down with Burchett for a 19-minute interview about his comments and his intent behind them. He said he’s looking for a solution, but not by banning assault weapons as survivors and activists have called for.
Instead, he wants mental health reform.
“Ideally, mentally ill folks, at some point we got to figure out a way to address them having a lack of mental health care. That’s the start. That’s the start.
“And I see it, one day we’ll outlaw some firearms, we’ve done it in the past,” he continued. “But just like when we pass laws in D.C. or Nashville, as soon as you pass them the lawyers have already figured out (loopholes).”
It gets done, he said, by crossing the aisle. He began meeting with about six Democratic members this week – unbeknownst to GOP leadership, he said – and their bipartisan talks centered on mental health. Burchett declined to say which members were a part of those conversations, calling them private.
“Ultimately, I mean, you have one side that says, ‘get rid of all the guns,’ and you have another side that says, ‘none at all,’” he said. “And we got to find that medium and I don’t know what it is. I really don’t. Unfortunately, I don’t serve on the committees that would take it up – like judiciary. So, I can propose one, but would it be taken up? Probably not.”
Still, while he wants to find a way to keep weapons out of the hands of those experiencing mental illness, Burchett is leery of what a registry of mentally ill people would look like.
Burchett talks revival, activists want results
To Burchett, the carnage and the damage wrought by gun violence can’t be fixed with legislation. The shooter in Nashville, for instance, broke a slew of laws put in place to protect schools from violence, such as the campus being a gun-free zone. It happened anyway.
This sort of fix is a fix of the heart, and you can’t legislate the heart. To Burchett, and many of his followers, this makes sense.
But to others, even some who agree with him, making it harder for “evil people,” as he calls them, to have access to guns is a legitimate fix, regardless of an elusive revival.
The Knox County Democratic Party put it succinctly on Twitter. ”@timburchett: when will enough be enough for you? How many more children’s lives?”
Burchett hears it, he just isn’t sure how to get there.
“At some point, somebody needs to say that we have a real problem in this country,” he said. “And we’re going to legislate, and we’ll legislate, but evil people will continue to do evil things, and that is just a very unfortunate thing.
“I wish I could pass a law and it would stop today.”
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