Red flag gun proposals at center of Tennessee special session debate on public safety

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee has proposed a bill for a temporary mental health order of protection but that bill has not received the support of House Republicans.

Published: June 4, 2023 6:50am

(The Center Square) -

As Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee prepares to call a special session of the Legislature on public safety, the specifics of that special session call have yet to be announced.

One bill that Democratic leadership is intending to propose is a red flag law bill that sponsors refer to as the Families Know First Act, an “extreme risk protection order” bill proposed late in the legislative session by Sen. Heidi Campbell, D-Nashville, and Rep. Bob Freeman, D-Nashville.

House Bill 1574 was one of five proposed gun bills that reached the House Delayed Bills Committee, which consists of House Speaker Cameron Sexton, R-Crossville, and House Minority Leader Karen Camper, D-Memphis, and House Majority Leader William Lamberth, R-Portland.

A bill needs a unanimous vote of the three leaders to be introduced. No action was taken on four of the bills but HB 1574 received approval from Camper and Sexton while Lamberth did not approve its introduction following the shooting at Nashville’s Covenant School that left six staff and students dead along with the shooter.

“The Delayed Bills Committee is not a vote of whether or not Speaker Sexton or anyone else supports the language or concept of a bill,” Sexton spokesperson Doug Kufner told The Center Square on Friday. “The vote is simply about allowing it into the committee process because it was filed after the Jan. bill filing deadline.

“The Covenant School shooting took place after the bill filing deadline, and Rep. Freeman stated his constituents asked him to file legislation. Rep. Freeman was under the 15-bill limit, so the speaker simply let the process of allowing his bill to get into the committee system to happen.”

That same proposal is being worked on right now but the exact wording will depend on the wording of Lee’s call for a special session.

Campbell has said she is also planning to propose bills to expand background checks, limit magazine capacity to 10 rounds or less, ban assault weapons and bump stocks, enforce guns-in-trunks law and also, repeal permitless carry, add a 72-hour firearm purchase waiting period and create a reckless endangerment felony for failing to secure firearms if a child younger than 13 gains possession, among other proposals.

Lee has proposed a bill for a temporary mental health order of protection but that bill has not received the support of House Republicans, who have also called for the release of the writings of the Covenant School shooter before the special session.

Sexton has reiterated that he is opposed to red flag laws.

"The speaker has and will always strongly support the House committee system," Kufner said about Freeman's HB 1574. "He believes strongly in allowing members to represent their district and their constituents. While Speaker Sexton supported the bill being heard, the speaker has continued to express his opposition to red flag laws in Tennessee."

The Firearms Policy Coalition, which reached a settlement with Tennessee earlier this year blocking the states restriction on open carry and permits for those ages 18-20, has spoken out against all red flag laws.

FPC said it will stand against any push for gun control in Tennessee.

“Regardless of the form any potential legislation takes, political expediency or anti-rights policy preferences are not substitutes for the solemn duty to protect and uphold the Constitution, the principles of individual liberty and respect for the law,” the group said in a statement. “Firearms Policy Coalition will continue its fight to restore the Second Amendment rights of the People and oppose any efforts to abrogate those same fundamental liberties.

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