Governor’s order of protection plan faces tough road in special session
House speaker predicts “red flag” bill won’t pass
Gov. Bill Lee, surrounded by Republican lawmakers during an April 3 press conference at which Lee announced he would direct funding towards school safety measures. (Photo:John Partipilo)
The governor’s proposal enabling law enforcement to confiscate weapons from unstable people is likely to go down in flames during a special session.
Tennessee’s House and Senate speakers forecast a harsh reception for Gov. Bill Lee’s plan Wednesday in an interview with reporters.
House Speaker Cameron Sexton termed the governor’s idea floated at the end of the regular session a “red flag” law and said “it won’t pass the House.” The governor has avoided the term “red flag.”
Even though the governor’s plan would require a due process hearing before a judge to determine whether someone is a danger to themselves or others, Sexton said, “You get to a point where it looks like one whether or not it is. … Most red flag laws is an order of protection that doesn’t provide mental health services for people on the backside. We’re not gonna pass a red flag law.”
Lt. Gov. Randy McNally, who serves as Senate speaker, would not say the governor’s plan is dead in the Senate but noted it will be difficult to pass.
The governor is set to call a special session for Aug. 21 for the Legislature to consider measures to stop mass shootings in the wake of The Covenant School incident in which six people, including three 9-year-old students, were killed at the Green Hills private Christian school.
Most red flag laws is an order of protection that doesn’t provide mental health services for people on the backside. We’re not gonna pass a red flag law.
– House Speaker Cameron Sexton
McNally said Wednesday he likes the governor’s initial proposal and believes methods to quell mass shootings need to be addressed. But he couldn’t say whether it would be more difficult to pass such a measure in the Senate or House.
“I think it’s gonna be an uphill battle both ways. I don’t think it’s an impossible hill to climb,” McNally said.
The lieutenant governor noted he “hopes” the Legislature doesn’t wind up “not doing anything.”
A spokeswoman for Gov. Lee didn’t address the Legislature’s opposition Wednesday, instead saying he supports “practical, thoughtful solutions to keep communities safe and protect constitutional rights.”
She added his office worked with lawmakers in advance of a special session to discuss “meaningful proposals” that would do both.
The proclamation calling the special session is expected to be made toward the targeted August date.
Republicans haven’t proposed other solutions while Democrats, such as Sen. Heidi Campbell of Nashville, are pushing a list of restrictions ranging from orders of protection to tighter background checks, an end to loopholes for gun show sales and bans on bump stocks and AR-15s.
Sexton, in contrast, said he is working on legislation that could enable police to investigate “general threats,” in addition to “specific threats,” to determine whether a person poses a public danger. In those cases, an arrest and conviction could lead to prohibitions on buying or possessing guns, depending on the severity of the sentence.
The state already has laws dealing with emergency and voluntary commitment, and his office is talking to law enforcement officials to find out why those aren’t used more effectively, he said.
In addition, Sexton said a special session is needed to help the TBI develop a uniform court system for criminal records rather than have 230,000 records missing from the database.
“Twelve years of data of someone who may not be able to purchase a gun based on those criminal records,” Sexton said.
House Democratic Caucus Chairman John Ray Clemmons said in response Wednesday, “It sounds like the GOP supermajority holding our state government hostage is yet again kowtowing to extremists and ignoring the pleas of Tennessee families by proposing toothless and redundant laws.”
Gun-rights groups have been pounding lawmakers for weeks with messages opposing any type of restrictions on gun ownership, including extreme risk protection orders.
Democrats are prepared to work with Republicans to pass “meaningful gun safety” bills, which the majority of Tennesseans support, Clemmons said.
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