KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE)- It’s a debate over public safety. It’s been nearly five months since the Covenant School Shooting prompted calls for a special legislative session by Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee.

The Tennessee General Assembly gaveled in on Monday afternoon. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle will debate over gun reform, juvenile justice reform, and mental health.

It’s a discussion in which people from across the state are voicing their opinions. Right outside the state capitol building, there have been doctors, parents, and passionate Tennesseans protesting peacefully all day.

Many of them were holding hands in prayer.

East Tennessee representatives are sharing their expectations and hoping for a positive outcome. However, there are a lot of mixed feelings about this particular session.

While Republican party members believe the focus should be on mental health and juvenile justice reform, their counterparts want more focus to be on gun control.

“The governor stated that he wanted to do something on the heels of the Covenant School Shooting and the general assembly thought it best not to do anything,” Rep. Sam McKenzie (D-Knoxville) said. “So I applaud the governor for staying steadfast, and calling this special session.”

McKenzie said he’s walking into this special session with an open mind even though several bills presented by Democratic lawmakers were not chosen to be heard this time around.

Instead, Republican lawmakers say the focus will be on mental health legislation and juvenile penalties.

“On the criminal side, we’re looking at juveniles in these gangs. A lot of times they have juvenile steal guns and that’s because after they completed age 18 and go to age 19 their records are wiped clean,” Lt. Gov. Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge) said. “So we’re thinking there should be stronger penalties in that area.”

Rep. Gloria Johnson (D-Knoxville) accused Republicans of avoiding the main issues.

“Unfortunately, by the call of the session, we’re not really allowed to address anything serious about actual gun violence,” she said. “So it is a betrayal of Tennessee families that we’re not really willing to have the discussion that 80% of Tennessee wants us to have.”

“We felt there was a need to pass certain legislation that addressed some of the issues with mental health and also some of the issues that addressed criminal behavior and I think those are the two main issues that are driving the problem with the multiple shootings, mass shootings, mass violence,” McNally said.

McKenzie said he’s putting parties aside and his people first.

“If someone’s in a mental health crisis and is having conversations about suicide, or killing others or going out and doing something, we need to be able to immediately take those weapons away from that person temporarily until we can get him or her diagnosed,” he said. “Those things, they’re not partisan issues. Those aren’t black-and-white issues. Those are issues that everyone should be able to resonate around.”

Johnson said she had two pieces of legislation that she presented that were not chosen for this session. One was regarding red flag laws and the other was a safe storage.

She said she will be bringing both of those up again in the January session. More than a dozen bills were filed ahead of the special session for lawmakers to discuss this week.