With a more concrete idea than last week, Governor Bill Lee announced that he would like the Legislature to pass a bill that would create red flag protections based on mental health.
This would expand an existing protective law order that encompasses domestic violence cases. As stated in the bill, this would be referred to as a temporary mental health protection order. There will be no ex parte, which means that the people in question will have to be notified and given the opportunity to appear before a judge.
While they don’t outright call it a red flag law, other states define it as the temporary removal of firearms that could pose a danger to others or themselves. Lee’s efforts for this come after the shooting at The Covenant School, which resulted in the deaths of six victims, plus the shooter. Of these six victims, three were 9 years old. Unlike spearheading the idea in public last week, Lee decided to renew his effort through a YouTube video.
“We all agree that dangerous and unstable individuals who intend to harm themselves or others should not have access to weapons,” Lee said. “And it should be done in a way that demands due process and a heavy burden of proof, supports law enforcement and punishes misrepresentation, improves mental health support, and preserves the Second Amendment for law-abiding citizens.”
Currently, Tennessee does not have red flag laws, but 19 states plus Washington, DC do. In the case of The Covenant School shooting, the shooter’s parents were experiencing emotional issues, but the attacker was able to legally purchase seven firearms from five different retailers. The shooter’s parents also felt their child got rid of the only firearm they knew about before March 27.
Unlike last week, Lee has support ready in the form of Lieutenant Governor Randy McNally. He said he originally favored red flag measures directly after the mass shooting in Green Hills. House Speaker Cameron Sexton remained silent.
“Ensuring that the mentally ill and those in crisis do not have access to guns while protecting the Second Amendment rights of everyone else is no easy task,” McNally said. “It’s an extremely delicate balance. I believe the balance has been struck with this proposed temporary mental health protection order. Other states that have attempted this balance have failed to one degree or another in failing to provide genuine due process and protecting against false complaints.”
Although silent, Sexton’s spokesman Doug Kufner said he had received the proposed wording.
“As we have said from the beginning, we are working with his administration and the Senate to find the best way forward to protect the children of Tennessee,” Kufner said. “These conversations will continue as we await further guidance from the administration on which bill is sufficient to achieve its purpose.”
House Democrats have said they want to see something stronger from Governor Lee.
“I appreciate the governor finally committing to this important issue, but Lee unsurprisingly handed us a watered down bill,” said Democratic Caucus Leader Rep. John Ray Clemmons, D-Nashville. “Looks like he’s more concerned with getting Republicans to vote 75 on a bill than he is with effectively protecting Tennessee’s children and families from gun violence. The people of Tennessee deserve leadership and courage. on this issue from their elected leaders. Unfortunately, neither is coming from across the aisle, and they should be held accountable.”
Tennesseans – I want to share an update with you. The past few weeks have been some of our toughest as a state.
We worked very hard on solutions and reached a pivotal moment, and I want to talk about that today.
There have been times in American history when great tragedy prompted those elected to serve to come together and respond with thoughtful action…action to improve laws, preserve rights, and protect communities.
We hear stories of pragmatic leaders who collectively stepped outside their party lines to do what they thought was the right thing, to change the course of history for the better.
But what the history books don’t always capture is the difficulty of those times when leaders stand at crossroads, choosing between the easy path and the right path.
I believe that is where we are today. We are at the crossroads.
The people of Tennessee ask us to put aside politics and personal pride. They are counting on us to do the right thing.
Since the Covenant tragedy, we have worked with the General Assembly to pass our school safety legislation by wide bipartisan margins.
I signed an executive order to ensure that law enforcement, the justice system and mental health professionals effectively share information, so that the background check process works as it should.
I also called on lawmakers to come together and find a solution to the toughest challenge of all.
We all agree that dangerous and unstable individuals who intend to harm themselves or others should not have access to weapons. And it should be done in a way that requires due process and a heavy burden of proof, supports law enforcement and punishes misrepresentation, improves mental health support, and preserves the Second Amendment for citizens. law-abiding.
The people of Tennessee agree with that. Lawmakers agree. Proponents of the Second Amendment agree with this.
And so, over the past two weeks, I’ve worked with members of the General Assembly — mindful of the constitution, second amendment protecting members — to craft legislation for an improved Protective Order Act that will strengthen safety and preserve the rights of Tennesseans.
To be specific, I propose that we improve our state law so that it protects more Tennessees and reaches more people struggling and in need of mental health support.
There is broad consensus that this is the right approach. It should be that simple… but unfortunately it isn’t.
Political groups began drawing their battle lines even before the bill was completed.
These are the moments the people of Tennessee have chosen us to listen and act on. I’m not saying it’s easy, but it is possible when it comes to the safety of our children, our teachers, and innocent lives.
The only thing standing in our way is politics – on both sides of the aisle.
National politicians and pundits – even the White House – are calling our proposal something it is not. “Red Flag” is nothing more than a toxic political label meant to draw lines in the sand so nothing gets done. It’s about Tennessee and the unique needs of our people. It should be reviewed on its own merits – and not confused with the laws of other states, many of which I believe fail to strike the right balance between preserving rights and protecting society.
And some Second Amendment supporters say something called “involuntary commitment” is the answer, but it would restrict all sorts of constitutional rights, including the Second Amendment. It’s not the best way.
Efforts like the ones I just mentioned don’t yield the right results. In fact, they don’t preserve the constitutional rights of Tennesseans in the best possible way, and they don’t address the heart of the problem of preventing tragedy.
It’s hard. I always said it.
But in Tennessee right now, if a husband threatens to harm his wife, a protective order will temporarily restrict his access to weapons to protect the spouse.
If that same man threatens to shoot himself in a church or a shopping mall, our proposal will offer the same level of protection to the general public.
We have a proven solution that gets to the heart of the problem – an improved protective order law to save lives and preserve the Second Amendment.
It’s a pivotal moment. But both sides risk standing in the way of a thoughtful and practical solution.
But we can’t give up. We cannot avoid difficult decisions.
And so, once again, I ask the General Assembly to vote on this proposed Enhanced Protective Order before the end of the legislative session.
We owe Tennesseans a vote.
The Covenant tragedy didn’t create the problem. On the contrary, it showed – more clearly than ever – that we can do more to protect students, teachers, communities and constitutional rights.
This moment should not be defined solely by tragedy. It can also be defined by hope – and results.
We’ve done it before – the governor’s office working with the legislature to rise above politics and lead through division, to search our hearts and do what I believe the people of Tennesse are for. elected us.
The Tennesseans are counting on us.
I believe we live in the greatest state in the country, and this is our chance to show it once again.