NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — It’s a delicate line Gov. Bill Lee is walking ahead of the special session on public safety and gun reform.
“I’ve put forth what I think is the framework for what will protect the citizens and protect the Second Amendment rights,” he said. “But there’s a lot of conversation to be had between now and then.”
Those conversations could prove to be tough ones—especially within his own party.
Republican leadership has been vocal about not entertaining anything resembling red flag laws, despite the governor’s push for a temporary mental health order of protection.
News 2 asked him what his plan is if they stick to their guns. “We’re going to meet with lawmakers, Republicans and Democrats, and outside stakeholders as well and talk about what we think is important,” Lee said.
The special session is set to begin Aug. 21, well after the start of school for most districts in the state. Some have questioned if that was an intentional move to prevent student protests like the ones seen during the regular legislative session.
But Lee said he left the decision up to Capitol leadership.
“At the end of the day, they are the ones that have to follow a process to get to a place where something can be done,” he said. “They chose those dates.”
News 2 reached out to leadership in both the Senate and the House to ask why that date was picked.
Their statements are as follows:
“There were many dates proposed and discussed. Ultimately, there was a consensus that members needed more time to reflect, study and discuss possible ideas and proposals before proceeding with a special session. The August date allows members to meet with constituents and stakeholders in order to determine the best path forward.”
– Adam Kleinheider, press secretary for Lt. Gov. Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge)
“The Governor sent a series of dates for a potential special session; the Senate indicated that Aug. 21 was their preference. The speaker has been clear the House would come in on any date the governor called for the special session because it is his decision. Members are having and will continue to have meaningful conversations with their constituents as they prepare for the Aug. session.”
– Doug Kufner, press secretary for Speaker of the House Cameron Sexton (R-Oak Ridge)
Democrats want serious gun reform but as the super minority, they will have to be amenable to meeting in the middle.
“The ambition of a few influential politicians are causing our children and others to die,” Rep. G.A. Hardaway (D-Memphis) said.
Meanwhile, Lee believes there is common ground between the two parties. Though ultimately, even he admits the decision isn’t his.
“There is agreement that things should be done and can be done,” Lee said. “What those things are, like I said, ultimately will be a decision for the General Assembly.”