Sen. Josh Hawley is calling for federal agencies to investigate the Nashville school shooting as a hate crime against Christians. "It is commonplace to call such horrors ‘senseless violence,'" the Missouri Republican wrote in a letter Tuesday to FBI Director Christopher Wray and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, per NBC. "But properly speaking, that is false. Police report that the attack here was 'targeted'—targeted, that is, against Christians." Police say the Covenant School, a private Christian elementary school, was attacked by a former student who may have felt "resentment" toward it. Police have described the shooter, 28-year-old Audrey Hale, as a "biological woman" who used male pronouns.
Hawley also condemned the shooting in a speech on the Senate floor Tuesday and sponsored a resolution to denounce it as a hate crime, reports the Kansas City Star. "We must also tell the truth about what happened yesterday in Nashville," Hawley said. "This murderous rampage, this taking of innocent life, was a horrific crime, but more specifically, it was a hate crime." The Star notes that Hawley doesn't have the strongest record on combating hate crimes: In 2021, he was the only senator to oppose legislation targeting a rise in hate crimes against Asian Americans.
Attorney General Merrick Garland was asked about a possible hate crime designation when he testified before a Senate subcommittee on an unrelated matter Tuesday, reports NBC. He told Republican Sen. John Kennedy that "as of now, motive hasn’t been identified," but federal agencies are working "full time" with local law enforcement to determine the motive. Police said Tuesday that Hale, who was shot dead by police at the scene, had been undergoing treatment for an "emotional disorder." (Read more Nashville school shooting stories.)