NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN)– Gov. Bill Lee has said he wants state lawmakers to draft an “order of protection” bill before the end of this year’s legislative session. But with the last day of session appearing to be coming in the next six to eight days, that goal is looking increasingly less likely.
In particular, it’s because Democrats’ version of a “red flag” bill, which they say they were open to amending, was voted down Thursday in a House committee.
“We have seen lots of statements of broad support, but what we need to see is people putting their backs into trying to pass something,” said Senate Minority Leader Sen. Jeff Yarbro (D—Nashville).
Sen. Yarbro said he and other lawmakers from Davidson County have met with the governor and are having bipartisan discussions on gun reform. He says he’s drafted an amendment to an existing bill that would keep firearms away from people deemed to be dangerous while also preserving Tennessean’s right to due process.
But considering Democrats make up less than a third of all state legislators, he said he needs someone on the other side of the aisle to join him.
“The question is who has the ball, at some point, somebody has to take ownership for this being successful,” he said. “If we are not going to see leadership in the House or the Senate or the governor sort of stand up and say, ‘I am not just encouraging this as a good idea, but I am going to put my political capital on the line to get it done,’ then we are not going to see it get done.”
In addition to facing hurdles like political differences, those advocating for an “order of protection” law in Tennessee are on a tight deadline.
“We only have six or seven days left before this legislature is going to adjourn,” Yarbro said.
When asked what they are doing in response to Lee’s directive, House Speaker Cameron Sexton (R—Crossville) gave no specifics on what if anything he would like to do on gun reform before the end of the session.
“There’s always a chance, I think the House and Senate and administration are working together we will see how that comes out in the next several days,” Sexton said of the possibility of an “order of protection” bill passing. “I haven’t seen any language from the governor yet, so I am not sure how you can be against something that hasn’t been put out, he came out with an idea but he hasn’t put out language.”
Majority Leader William Lamberth (R—Portland) said all ideas are still on the table and conversations are ongoing.
“We aren’t going to get all the way there this year in the next couple of weeks, but I feel like we can make some good steps forward and we already have with the school safety bill,” Lamberth said.
In response to comments like these, Democrats are wondering if Republicans are trying to run out the clock and end this conversation.
“They are taking on a lot of water and they want to get out of here as soon as possible and it’s damage of their own making,” said Rep. John Ray Clemmons (D—Nashville).
The Tennessee Firearms Association has also come out against Lee’s call for an “order of protection” law and has called the proposal unconstitutional and a distraction from having a conversation about mental health. In response to those concerns, Democrats have said all bills they are considering would be in line with the Second Amendment.