One doctor’s wish list for Tennessee’s special legislative session

Background checks and waiting periods for gun purchases are among measures found to be effective where implemented

May 17, 2023 6:00 am
Photo of a man tucking a handgun into his hip holster. (Photo: Karen Pulfer Focht)

(Photo: Karen Pulfer Focht)

Mass shootings have become such a frequent occurrence in the U.S. that many of us have become numb to seeing news about them almost daily. But when one occurs in your town and affects people you know, it hits you differently. 

The shooting  at the Covenant School in Nashville on March 27 has affected both me and the community deeply. The collective sense of security and safety was shattered for so many parents, teachers and children that day. 

I was getting ready to head into work at a Nashville hospital that morning when the colleague I was about to relieve texted me that there was a mass casualty event with several reported fatalities. I drove into work that day with fear in my gut and a heaviness in my heart. Our hospital is not a trauma center but we stood ready to receive any patients that would need to be diverted should the level 1 and 2 trauma centers become overwhelmed. 

We did not find our services needed that day. Many of us watched the news at the nursing station in between caring for our patients. It was a tough day. One of my colleagues with young children needed to step out for a few minutes to cry. 

I was galvanized by this experience and the knowledge that two of the children killed that day were those of members of the medical community. This one hit close to home. I learned about the rally scheduled three days later and found myself heading to the state Capitol after working a night shift, addressing the crowd of thousands who had shown up to demand common sense gun laws in our state. The people of Nashville showed up for the members of their community that were hurting. 

High school students confront House Majority Leader William Lamberth on Monday at the Tennessee Capitol to demand lawmakers enact gun safety laws. (Photo: John Partipilo)
High school students confront House Majority Leader William Lamberth on Monday at the Tennessee Capitol to demand lawmakers enact gun safety laws. (Photo: John Partipilo)

From that day on, I participated in the rallies and protests that stemmed from the outpouring of outrage, anguish, fear and grief felt by our city in the aftermath of the Covenant School shooting. I saw firsthand how the Republican supermajority either ignored our concerns or were callous, snide and flippant in their responses to our calls for common sense gun laws to keep children safe in schools and the community. 

When the General Assembly adjourned for the summer without taking up any meaningful gun legislation, I wish I could say I was surprised. But I’ve seen the supermajority legislative body ignore the will of the people time and again on so many issues. 

I am glad that Gov. Bill Lee has called for the August special session. I have the smallest glimmer of hope that we will actually see meaningful gun safety legislation pass as a result of Lee’s call. But I have realistic expectations since several Tennessee Republicans have said loudly that they will not pass a red flag law. 

However, I know that the thousands of people showing up to the Capitol since late March have gotten their attention. And we now have data from several polls, including one done by Fox news, that the majority of Tennesseans support red flag laws and other gun safety measures. 

Lee has asked Tennesseans for their input in the special session via this website. I have filled out the form with my wishlist as follows: 

  1. Extreme risk protecton order
  2. Safe gun storage law
  3. Mandatory safety training for all gun owners
  4. Age limit of 21 to purchase guns
  5. Ban on semi-automatic weapons
  6. Ban on high capacity magazines
  7. Background checks for every gun purchase
  8. Background check for ammunition
  9. Limits on ammunition that can be purchased
  10. Mandatory cooling off or waiting period, allowing sufficient time for thorough background checks
  11. Stricter enforcement of dispossession for those with Protection Orders against them
  12. Repeal the permitless carry law
  13. Repeal the “guns in trunks” law
  14. Regulate the purchases of tactical gear with background checks just like guns/ammo
  15. Mandatory liability insurance for gun owners
  16. Increase funding for mental healthcare to increase the number of psychiatric beds and providers
  17. Expand Medicaid so more people have access to mental healthcare

My list is extensive and includes measures that are proven to reduce incidences of gun violence in the places that have enacted them. We know more can be done to protect our children. The status quo is no longer enough. Everyone, no matter who they are or where they live, deserves to be safe in their communities. I call on the Tennessee legislature to pass sensible laws which the vast majority of Tennesseans support.

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Dr. Katrina Green
Dr. Katrina Green

Dr. Katrina Green is a board certified emergency physician who practices in Nashville and Lawrenceburg. Her degree in medicine is from Wayne State University and she completed a residency in emergency medicine at Indiana University. She lives in East Nashville with her husband and two cats.