NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee has officially called for a special session of the General Assembly on public safety, and state lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have already issued reactions to that call.
Republicans in the legislature were previously not happy with the possibility of a special session if it would include any action toward emergency risk protection orders (ERPOs), also called red-flag laws. Several lawmakers signed an open letter asking Lee to cancel the special session, but the governor resisted the calls from his own party.
Several lawmakers have responded to the call for the special session, with Democrats largely critical of the planned subjects.
“The Governor has requested and informed the General Assembly of the call for a special session on Aug. 21. We look forward to the opportunity to strengthen public safety and mental health resources without infringing on the rights of law-abiding Tennesseans.”
“Unsurprisingly, Governor Lee is bowing to the extremist fringe of his party in the parameters set forth for the special session. Tennesseans are demanding common sense gun laws to protect kids, not more juvenile incarceration to jail kids. Republican cowardice is killing us!”
“This is incredibly disappointing. This call looks more like a scheme to block common sense gun safety reform than an honest effort to stop gun violence. Instead of ensuring access to mental health care or removing deadly weapons from a person in a crisis, the governor would rather lock you up. The scope is so limited. The governor broke his promise to Covenant families.”
“For such a broadly worded call, @GovBillLee’s proclamation somehow still manages to miss the mark. Lee wilted. Winners: extremist legislators and special interest orgs. Losers: TN families who want and deserve action and substantive policies to better protect our children.”
Sen. Raumesh Akbari (D—Memphis)
“Whether you’re at church, school or grocery shopping, we all deserve the freedom to live without fear of gun violence. But after a decade of Republicans eliminating common sense gun laws, shootings are now the leading cause of death for children in our state. No family and no community are immune. A promise to do something to stop future shootings was made to Covenant parents, but sadly this proclamation eliminates many paths forward. While the narrow focus of this special session is frustrating, it will not stop Senate Democrats from fighting for reforms that directly address the epidemic of gun violence in our communities. We promised to put forward legislation that could prevent the next shooting before it happens — and that’s a promise we’re going to keep.”
House Minority Leader Karen Camper (D—Memphis)
“While the Governor’s official call is wide-ranging, I must admit my disappointment overall in the exact scope of his proclamation. I know that he was under tremendous pressure from his own party to call off the special session, but I was hoping for a serious discussion about gun reform in Tennessee. The number of firearms in our state is staggering and has been since we passed the open carry and guns in trunks laws. But simply focusing on safe storage alone does not truly solve the problems we face in this state and that our constituents were begging us to debate after the Covenant school shooting in Nashville and the Prive restaurant shooting in Memphis this past March. The dangers that our families and schoolchildren face today frighten me, as they do most Tennesseans. Memphis is not unique in our needs to combat crime and gun violence, this is a Tennessee problem that affects our cities, our rural areas and every community in the state. We are losing too many lives to gun violence and it’s time to come to the table and have a real dialogue on how to bring this situation under control.”