Tennessee State government will be funding school resource officers, mental health resources within schools, as well as improvements to school facilities’ security after the Nashville shooting in a private Christian school on March 27.
Governor Bill Lee confirmed plans to call the General Assembly back into a special session to discuss and debate some type of legislation addressing the access of weapons by individuals who are a harm to themselves and to others. Speculation as to this special legislative session points to a time after July, possibly as late as September.
Some demand immediate action that would limit gun ownership, limit the types of weapons sold and owned, as well as outlaw large capacity weapons and clips completely. Conversely, others believe their right to own weapons under the protections of the US Constitution’s Second Amendment transcend all other scenarios, rejecting measures that would limit sales, ownership, or manufacture.
Governor Lee, a Republican with a record of support of the Second Amendment, signed an Executive Order on April 11 which strengthened the background checks of individuals purchasing weapons through use of the Tennessee Instant Check System to both report relevant information and permit gun purchases.
Tennessee’s fiftieth governor also challenged Legislators to pass an order of protection proposal that would use the existing framework currently protecting victims of domestic abuse and violence from the perpetrators of their harm.
Present Tennessee law utilizes a process for victims seeking protections from an abuser involving law enforcement and the judicial system that includes a provision, among other interventions, whereby the Court orders the perpetrator to surrender all firearms. This dispossession of firearms means the named respondent/defender is “prohibited from possessing a firearm for so long as the order of protection or any successive order of protection is in effect.”
Governor Lee suggests this same approach be used for a temporary dispossession of firearms for a period not to exceed 180 days following a court petition by law enforcement regarding an individual believed to be a harm to themselves or others.
Terminology commonly used to debate legislative intervention, in addition to “orders of protection,” includes “red flag laws” or “extreme risk orders.” Nineteen states and the District of Columbia have some type of extreme risk or red flag laws in place. Virginia is the only contiguous state to Tennessee with such laws, with Florida’s Extreme Risk Law in force since passage in March 2018.
In Tennessee, the last legislation to address weapons possessed by those deemed a harm to themselves or others was passed in 2019 after the Nashville Waffle House shooting where the shooter’s father returned a high-powered weapon to the disturbed man despite his known history. The law, signed by Governor Bill Lee on May 21, 2019, made it illegal to transfer a firearm to a person known to have been deemed a substantial or serious harm due to mental illness or emotional disturbance by a physician and adjudicated through the Court.
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