In “What We’ve Become: Living and Dying In a Country of Arms,” the physician, Vanderbilt professor and gun-policy scholar Jonathan M. Metzl details the aftermath of an earlier mass shooting in Nashville, in which four young people of color were gunned down in a Waffle House restaurant by a deranged white assailant wearing nothing but an ammunition vest. In that tragedy, too, survivors and parents formed nonprofits that worked for gun safety. They, too, tried to transform their own heartbreak into legislation that would save others from the same heartbreak.

In response, the General Assembly passed an open-carry law that parents, doctors, pastors, police officers and public-health advocates collectively opposed. Instead of making Tennesseans safer, legislators created circumstances that yielded not fewer guns but more of them.

Dr. Metzl has become convinced that long-enshrined arguments for gun safety must be reconsidered and recast to move beyond traditional side-taking. Among other crucial social changes, responsible Republican gun owners need to be convinced that keeping public spaces safe does not mean taking away their guns.

The indefatigable parents of Covenant might be able to convince them. Learning from earlier survivor efforts, joining the work of gun-reform advocates on the other side of the aisle, and speaking with the survivor’s voice of moral authority, they are perfectly positioned to break through the polarities of even red-state politics. As Dr. Metzl told me, “There’s nothing like a convert to sway the conversation: ‘I was this, and now I’m this’ is a very powerful argument.” People who have changed their minds, or whose priorities have shifted in response to new information, remind us that transformation is always possible.

Perhaps most hopeful is what this model, if it works, could do to change the national conversation on guns. Because if gun reform works in a state like Tennessee, it can work anywhere. “What’s happening in Nashville now is so important to figuring out what’s next,” Dr. Metzl pointed out in our conversation. “We have to find a way to do this that’s going to guide the rest of the country.”

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