MARYVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — A state representative from Maryville and two other lawmakers have called on Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee to abandon the special legislative session on public safety in the wake of the Covenant School shooting.
The special session called by Gov. Lee is scheduled to begin Aug. 21. In the wake of the school shooting in Nashville that killed six people, including three children, Lee urged lawmakers to pass an ‘order of protection’ bill.
This would allow family members and law enforcement to petition civil court for an extreme risk protection order that would allow weapons to be temporarily removed from a person deemed a risk to themselves or others.
The bill has been rejected by many Republican lawmakers as a ‘red flag’ law. The regular legislative session ended in April without lawmakers taking up the proposal.
Rep. Bryan Richey (R-Maryville) published the letter Wednesday on social media. The statement asked the governor to cancel the planned session Richey deemed a ‘publicity stunt’ and dismissed the proposed legislation.
“Summoning legislators to Nashville to enact an unconstitutional “red flag” law will not, as you suggest, “strengthen public safety and preserve constitutional rights.” To the contrary, the General Assembly adamantly opposes- and has refused to enact– measures that violate Tennesseans’ Second Amendment rights, whether styled “order of protection” legislation or any other euphemism.”Rep. Bryan Richey (R-Maryville)
He asserts the Covenant School shooting would not have been averted by a “red flag” law and called the proposed special session, “a solution in search of a problem.”
The letter references a statement by Tennessee Senate Leader Jack Johnson (R-Franklin) that, “the Tennessee General Assembly will not pass any red flag law, period.” House Republicans also released a statement echoing the sentiment.
Richey wrote the legislature has “declined to adopt measures that would allow the confiscation of lawful firearms from citizens without due process” and “such legislation would be blatantly unconstitutional under the controlling Supreme Court precedent in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen (2022).”
“We can strengthen our criminal penalties and protect our people at any time,” the letter reads. “It does not require a special session—a session that will be a political event to put pressure on conservative Republicans to grow government and ignore the will of their constituents in service to the national woke mob that will descend on the Capitol.”
He wrote that lawmakers can “further consider and discuss legitimate measures to improve public safety when the legislature reconvenes in January 2024.”
The letter was signed by Reps. Todd Warner (R—Chapel Hill) and Ed Butler (R—Rickman). Richey urges other lawmakers to sign onto the letter.
House Majority Leader William Lamberth told WKRN that Richey’s statement “absolutely does not” speak for the entire House Republican Caucus.
“If our Governor calls the legislature back into a special session to discuss any issue, the Republican Caucus will certainly be ready, willing and able to debate the best way forward for our state, just as we have done in five previous special sessions. We will continue to defend and preserve civil rights while ensuring every community is safer than it is today.”Rep. William Lamberth (R-Portland)
Richey, a realtor and U.S. Navy veteran, was elected to represent House District 20 in 2022. He defeated the incumbent Bob Ramsey, who had served in the role since 2010, in the Republican primary.