NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Tennessee House Republicans are saying that any “red flag” gun law is a “non-starter” after Gov. Bill Lee released his proposed gun reform legislation that appears to be similar to a “red flag” bill.
Gov. Lee’s “order of protection” bill would allow law enforcement to temporarily take guns from people who pose a danger to themselves or others if a judge agrees.
In a video announcing the legislation, Lee said he wanted this bill to be “reviewed on its own merits” and not considered to be a part of a broader category.
“‘Red flag’ is nothing but a toxic political label meant to draw lines in the sand so nothing gets done. This is about Tennessee and the unique needs of our people,” Lee said.
But other than his own Lieutenant Governor, no Republican lawmakers are publicly expressing support for the bill.
The proposed legislation currently has no sponsors, no bill number and no clear path to passage.
When asked if they support it, some House Republicans said they still need time to review the 13-page bill and said they did not see the language until it was released Wednesday afternoon.
“We recently received Governor Lee’s proposed language. As we have said from the beginning, we are working with his administration and the Senate to find the best path forward to protect Tennessee children. These conversations will continue as we await more direction from the administration on which bill is sufficient to accomplish his goal,” said a spokesperson for House Speaker Cameron Sexton (R–Crossville).
In addition, the term “red flag law” played a role in some of the members of Lee’s own party’s trepidation.
“To comment one way or another if this is or is not a ‘red flag’ law, I think is premature. We’ve got to look more closely at that,” said Assistant Majority Leader Rep. Mark Cochran (R–Englewood).
In a tweet, Rep. Jason Zachary (R–Knoxville) said he is against the bill.
“Red flag/order of protection legislation will not pass the TN House. I do not and will not support. The vast majority of my fellow @tnhousegop colleagues feel the same,” he posted Tuesday after Lee’s proposal was made public.
Rep. Cochran also noted that time is running out to vet, debate and vote on Lee’s bill before the legislative session is over for the year.
“There’s no question that is a tough ask,” Cochran said. “The days of session are very few. We are probably 48 hours away from adjourning.”
Democrats are applauding the governor for putting out a bill even though they say it’s a “watered down” version of the type of law they would like to see.
“This was, really is a hastily crafted piece of legislation,” said Rep. John Ray Clemmons (D–Nashville). “There’s contradictory language in this legislation, you can tell it was thrown together really quickly.”
Among other differences, the Democrats’ version of a bill to limit dangerous people’s access to guns allows family members rather than just law enforcement the ability to petition to take someone’s guns.
But, Rep. Clemmons said he doesn’t expect to be able to propose that addition or any others to the governor’s proposal under the Republican supermajority in the legislature.
“I think they won’t do anything, unfortunately,” he said.
The General Assembly is expected to adjourn by the end of this week after passing the budget.