Image Credit: Tennessee Action Group
submitted by Anne Featherston [Tennessee Action Group] –
This week in Nashville, Governor Lee has called the Tennessee General Assembly back into session to create legislation for gun control. Why?
Gun control issues heated up in Tennessee March 6 with a shooting in Nashville at Covenant school that killed 6 people. Since the General Assembly (G.A.) was still convened, Governor Lee asked them to consider gun restrictions called Red Flag laws. The G.A. refused.
This drew Tennessee onto a national scene on April 6, when 3 Democrat house representatives (now known as the “Nashville 3”) disrupted the House floor in protest resulting in hundreds, if not thousands of young people protesting in Nashville. (Universities shut down classes so they could attend). Many of those protesters were also from out of state.
By April 10, Governor Lee had a 13-page proposal pushing “extreme risk” order of protection (ERPO) aimed at “substantially changing Tennessee’s criminal and mental health codes and in effect, implementing ‘Red Flag’ laws.” This type of law “allows law enforcement officials, household and family members, and others to petition a judge to issue an order removing firearms from an individual’s possession and/or preventing them from making firearm purchases.”
Red Flag laws violate 4th Amendment “due process,” which means guns can be confiscated without the individual first having a court hearing, and before a crime is even committed. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled these laws unconstitutional in June of 2022 in the Bruen case.
Yet, on April 20th, According to Capitol insiders, Rules were suspended in the Tennessee House so the legislation can bypass the subcommittee and committee process and go straight to the floor for a vote. The G.A. refused to hear Lee’s proposals, which would require attaching them as amendments onto bills currently on the floor. Almost immediately, rumors surfaced the governor would request a Special Sessions in the summer and on May 8 he did so. The race was on.
At least 9 GOP county offices sent separate letters to Governor Lee requesting he retract the call for a special session. The same offices also sent resolutions to their representatives to immediately adjourn the session if called. Grassroots groups around the state sent petitions and letters, including Fentress County’s Tennessee Action Group which collected over 345 signatures during a public petition signing at the Historic Courthouse in Jamestown. Representative Kelly Keisling showed up to add his signature.
After 3 months of public outcry and distress, pro and con, on August 8 the governor finally issued the formal call for a special session with a proclamation to “consider and act upon legislation” listing 18 different areas to consider. Eighteen proposals? None deal directly with gun control. What is going on!?
Keep this in mind: all of this started over one school shooting, even though there have been 22 mass shooting in Tennessee since 2012, and five of them were in schools. Rep. John Ragan commissioned a study which is submitting a study next week. He found that schools have “low probability,” but “high impact” (yes, especially for those involved). Further, “94% of mass public shootings, including school shooting, since 1950 occurred in Gun-Free Zones.” Therefore, our General Assembly allocated $200 Million towards school security.
At Covenant school in Nashville, there was no school guard, and the shooter’s manifesto has been kept from the public. That leaves us with 18 proposals from Gov. Lee in response to something for which there are many unanswered questions.
The list of proclamations from Lee it is all over the place. His proposal allows our state’s top law enforcement officials access to personal healthcare information, including what medications a person is taking. Someone who has had the courts involved in determining the state of their mental health, will have that reported to firearms dealers. He also proposes that juveniles’ criminal records are no longer protected, and the age is lowered for adult court. Gov. Lee expands Medicaid to cover mental health programs funded by federal money—which gives the federal government control.
Where is this going? How much will the feds ultimately be involved?
Read the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, S2938, Public Law No: 117-15, passed July 2022. Good luck on that!) Better, let’s look at the myriad of articles about it. The Washington Post says this bill, “enact(s) the most significant new gun restrictions since the 1990s.” And here is where we find $750 Million from the feds to the states to put into place red flag laws. Already 19 other states have done so. This Act offers the states another $200 Million for increasing mental health services. Perhaps that is what Lee means when his proclamation asks for “legislation regarding mental health resources, or services.” We also find $2 Billion provided to hire and train staff for school mental health services.
The argument here is not against mental health services. Instead it questions why they are trying to implement this in the schools under federal government control and intervention. Why are these services not being offered through local community, especially where parents have more oversight?
So what is really going on? The feds have dangled the proverbial carrot– money. Do we want money instead of independence? Do you? Will you give up your state sovereignty, our independence from federal controls, for more control over your children, your guns? Do you want the federal government controlling the state of Tennessee?
State sovereignty is at risk. We will discuss that more in the coming months before the 2024 Sessions in Nashville. We will look at how to protect our state against federal encroachment.
If any of this is something that concerns you call your representative and your senator, now. Ask them to vote for adjournment. Ask them to consider new laws during the regular legislative session January through April when they have open discussion with public input. Not now, and not behind closed doors.