NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — In what’s arguably the biggest step Gov. Bill Lee (R-Tennessee) has taken to address gun violence, he announced he’d push the General Assembly for an “order of protection law.”
“A person that has shown that they are a real threat to themselves or to others, that person, that individual should not have access to firearms,” Lee said to reporters Tuesday morning.
He also signed an executive order to require law enforcement to submit new criminal activity within 72 hours, while also calling on the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) to examine background checks for firearms in Tennessee.
“I certainly hope there’s bipartisan support, sufficient, to get this done,” Lee said.
House Democratic leadership blasted the plan, calling it a beguiled way to drum up support.
“Yet again, you’ve got this governor that’s completely failed leadership, yet again punting to someone else to solve the problems,” said Rep. John Ray Clemmons (D-Nashville).
Clemmons, the House Democratic Caucus Chairman, said he agrees with some of the ideas, but not the way the governor is proposing implementation.
“If he wants us to do all the work and provide the only leadership in the state of Tennessee, that’s great. That’s fine, I’m more than happy to do it,” he said. “We’ve been trying to do it for years.”
At the same time, Lee addressed the expulsion of Rep. Justin Jones (D-Nashville) and former representative Justin Pearson—who could be reinstated Wednesday—stopping short of calling it a distraction but urging lawmakers to put partisanship aside.
“You work together to say, ‘How can we take those emotions and move them in a productive way forward, including what happened in the last week?’” Lee said.
News 2 did reach out to Speaker of the House Cameron Sexton for comment. Below is his statement:
“We all appreciate Gov. Lee’s leadership and his commitment to finding solutions to stop tragedies like the Covenant School shooting from two weeks ago. As we look at mental health orders of protection, they must have a level of due process, protections from fraudulent claims, and a quick judicial hearing for individuals who pose imminent threats. The House is willing to work toward bipartisan solutions to protect all children at their schools, in their communities, and inside their homes.”
News 2 also reached out to Lt. Gov. Randy McNally with the same request. The response is below:
“I support the second amendment unequivocally and believe that a law-abiding, armed citizenry is the greatest defense against criminality and tyranny. But I also believe we must take steps to ensure those experiencing mental health crises do not have access to weapons that can be used in mass casualty events. I have been open to discussing emergency mental health protection orders in Tennessee and continue to be. Any such order process must be tightly constructed with sufficient due process and protection against false or fraudulent reporting. I believe it is possible to protect the constitutional rights of law-abiding gun owners while keeping guns out of the hands of people experiencing severe mental health crises. I am looking forward to continuing to work with Governor Lee and my colleagues in the General Assembly towards this goal.”