Speed Reads

Hitting close to home

Kentucky governor, Florida U.S. senator lost friends in Louisville bank shooting

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear (D) and Florida Sen. Rick Scott (R) were both friends with one of the five people killed Monday in a mass shooting at Old National Bank in Louisville. Beshear said Thomas Elliot, a senior vice president at the bank, was one of his "closest friends," and one of two friends killed in the mass shooting. "Tommy Elliot helped me build my law career, helped me become governor, gave me advice on being a good dad," Beshear said. "He was an incredible friend." Scott said Elliot was a friend and his "banker for many years." 

Along with Elliot, 63, the five people shot dead by a 25-year-old bank employee were identified as Joshua Barrick, 40; Juliana Farmer, 45; James Tutt, 64; and Deana Eckert, 57. Eight other people were shot, some critically. "This is awful," Beshear said at a news conference. "I have a very close friend that didn't make it tonight. And I have another close friend who did not, either, and one who's at the hospital but I hope is going to make it through."

Gov. Bill Lee (R) in neighboring Tennessee also lost two longtime family friends among the six killed in the March 27 shooting at Nashville's Covenant School: teacher Cindy Peak and school head Katherine Koonce, both of whom once taught with Lee's wife, Maria. "Cindy was supposed to come over to have dinner with Maria last night after she filled in as a substitute teacher yesterday at Covenant," he said after the shooting. 

"Two governors losing close associates to mass shootings within a two week span would be the type of thing that, I think, would have had more of a political ripple effect not even that long ago," Politico's Sam Stein observed Monday

More than 20 percent of American adults, and more than half of Black Americans, say they or someone close to them have experienced gun violence, according to a 2022 Associated Press-NORC survey. "For some, the proximity to tragedy galvanizes a push for policy change," The Washington Post reports. Beshear, a Democrat in a red state, supports a red flag law and other modest gun laws but won't get any through the GOP-controlled state Legislature. "For Lee, a conservative Republican," the Post notes, "the Nashville shooting appears unlikely to herald a drastic political shift."

Gun deaths are on the rise in the U.S., hitting a record 48,830 in 2021, a 23 percent jump from 2023, a Pew Research analysis found. And the number of kids and teens killed by gunfire in the U.S. spiked 50 percent between 2019 and 2021.

Sharp rise in child gun deaths

Pew Research Center

Black children were roughly five times as likely as white children to die from gunfire in 2021, Pew found, and 84 percent of those deaths were homicides. Among white children and teens, 66 percent of gun deaths were suicides, while 24 percent were homicides.