NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — After a chaotic last day of the Tennessee special session on public safety, the Tennessee Firearms Association, a pro-gun lobby, celebrated an end with “no meaningful results.”
“It is time to celebrate a victory in this skirmish, but the war is not over,” wrote John Harris, the group’s executive director.
The group has been critical of Gov. Bill Lee (R-Tennessee) for calling the special session in the wake of the mass shooting at The Covenant School. In particular, they strongly opposed Lee’s proposed extreme risk order of protection legislation, which Lee described as a bill to keep firearms from dangerous people without infringing on their right to due process.
While also noting lawmakers didn’t pass any gun reform legislation, parents of children who attend The Covenant School were critical of the inaction.
“We held a special session following the extraordinary tragedy of the mass shooting that took place at The Covenant School, and yet we took no meaningful action,” said Sarah Shoop Neumann with Covenant Families for Brighter Tomorrows. “We’re just sitting here waiting for this to happen again, but every day I drop my son off [and] just think this could happen again, and I know we can’t eradicate evil this world, but we could sure work to stop it or lessen it.”
Neumman and others spent the months following the shooting meeting with lawmakers to advocate for gun reform in a bipartisan way. They say every bill they fought for was left on the table.
“As a mother, I’m going to have to look at my 9-year-old in the eye and tell her, ‘Nothing. Our elected representatives have done nothing. Our state has done nothing to make us safer or to prevent this from happening again,'” said Covenant School mother Mary Joyce.
Joyce and Neumman said they plan to return to the statehouse in January when lawmakers convene for regular session to continue their advocacy.
“We will work toward ensuring every one of those seats is replaced by someone who has a true desire to listen to their constituents over firearms association lobbyist,” Neumman said.
Covenant father David Teague noted to reporters lawmakers did pass a bill related to firearms after the shooting, but not a law they support.
“To their credit, they didn’t do anything,” Teague said sarcastically. “They did reduce the liability for gun manufacturers after the shooting.”
While he was out of the public eye for most of the special session, Lee said while the past week has been “difficult”, he is also “hopeful”.
“[T]hose are things that we should celebrate, and I am. Do we have a lot of work to do going forward? We should never stop,” Lee said.
Lee said they did allocate millions to add funding to mental health and school safety initiatives.
Specifically, the appropriations bill that passed included millions of dollars for tax breaks on gun safes and locks, and funding for a public safety campaign to promote safe storage.
The Department of Safety already has a program in place to distribute gun locks.
The bill also set aside $10 million to an existing grant schools can apply for to receive funding for school safety and extended that grant to include colleges and universities.
In addition, millions were allocated to give bonuses to behavioral health workers and fund scholarships for students who want to pursue jobs in behavioral health.
House Republicans said they would’ve liked to have accomplished more.
“All I can say is we have tried in the House as much as we could to move the ball down the field, and we didn’t ever near where we want it to,” said Rep. William Lamberth (R-Portland).
Find the latest news from the Tennessee State Capitol as WKRN News 2 brings you coverage of the special session. Click here to read more.