NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — On what appeared to be the penultimate day of session, Gov. Bill Lee’s gun reform amendment appears to be dead in the water – at least for this year.
“This is not Congress, we actually read the bills, we go through the bills in detail,” Rep. Jason Zachary (R-Knoxville) said. “You cannot responsibly pass a 15-page bill in a couple of days; it’s just not how our committee structure works.”
Lee’s amendment would introduce a ‘temporary mental health order of protection’ to remove guns from someone a court finds threatening.
“It’s maddening when a group of people whose job, theoretically, is to represent Tennesseans and whose job is to legislate is refusing to do either,” Sen. Jeff Yarbro (D-Nashville) said.
Yarbro lobbed a Hail Mary proposal at the last second in the Senate. He tried to force a vote on an amendment that would have introduced orders of protection, but the Senate voted not to discuss it.
Over in the House, top Republicans said the governor’s amendment is effectively dead.
“One thing I know after 13 years, when we react and do something quickly, we rarely get it right,” House Republican Caucus Chairman Jeremy Faison (R-Cosby) said.
Faison, along with Zachary, both pointed to the fact that the legislation was introduced just this week, even though session is winding to a close.
“A red flag law, an overreaction to something that happened,” Zachary said. “That’s what this is, is not something that we can take up right now because that’s a 15-page bill.”
“What I have encouraged the governor is to back up, look at this and gauge all the people that are important, talk to our mental health, talk to our administrators, law enforcement, get it together,” Faison said, separately. “Let’s look at having a special session soon.”
Zachary, though, stopped short of endorsing a special session.
“You would have so many people that would call it a gun control special session. You would have both groups descend on the Capitol. It would be absolute chaos,” he said. “So, I don’t think a special session would be the way to go.”
Democrats went the other way, not necessarily urging one but expressing vehement support.
“I support a special session to get this done,” Senate Minority Leader Raumesh Akbari (D-Memphis) said. “We need it across the state of Tennessee from Memphis to Mountain City.”
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News 2’s Chris O’Brien reached out to the governor’s office Wednesday to see if he was considering a special session if the amendment does indeed fail.
The response was as follows:
“Governor Lee is asking the general assembly to vote on the bill during the legislative session. As he said, ‘We owe Tennesseans a vote.’’
O’Brien also reached out to the governor’s office Thursday to see if that answer has changed since so many Republicans have come against it. As of publishing, they have not responded.