Friday, August 11, 2023

It appears Gov. Lee's proposed Red-flag law (Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO) ) is Dead on Arrival. No meaningful gun reform will come out of the special session.

by Rod Williams, August 11, 2023- Unless a miracle happens, we can forget about the passage of a Red Flag law in Tennessee. Govenor Lee's version of a red flag law is a less severe restriction of the right of people experiencing mental health issues than some red-flag laws in other states.  Lee has gone out of his way to say that what he is proposing is, in fact, not a red-flag law but an Extreme Risk Protection Order. 

Following the Covenant School shooting, Lee proposed the new law along with other provisions.  The legislature adjourned without taking up his proposals. They did pass a law providing funding for a School Resource Officer in every school in Tennessee. That proposal was filed prior to the deadly shooting at The Covenant School. 

The governor has called a special session for August 21st to consider a package of bills mostly focused on providing additional mental health services in Tennessee. Lee's Extreme Risk Protection Order proposal was early-on the main focus of the governor's initiative. That proposal is included in the proclamation calling the legislature back into session, however in the official press release announcing the special session, Lee did not mention it.

It appears that the governor has given up.  It is hard to blame him for facing reality. He tried. There is almost no support for the proposal in the State legislature. Here is a list of how legislators stand on the issue as compiled by The Tennessean and as posted to the Tennessee Firearms Association website. The Tennessean reached out to 138 lawmakers but only those listed below replied to The Tennessean's query. This list does include the leadership of the legislature.

Support Lee’s ERPO proposal, as proposed in April (7)

  • Lt. Gov. Randy McNally, R-Oak Ridge
  • Senate Minority Leader Raumesh Akbari, D-Memphis 
  • House Minority Leader Karen Camper, D-Memphis 
  • Rep. John Gillespie, R-Memphis 
  • Rep. Mark White, R-Germantown
  • Rep. Anthony Davis, D-Nashville 
  • Rep. Dwayne Thompson, D-Cordova 

Oppose Lee’s ERPO proposal, as proposed in April (28)

  • House Speaker Cameron Sexton, R-Crossville 
  • House Majority Leader William Lamberth, R-Portland 
  • House Majority Whip Johnny Garrett, R-Goodlettsville
  • Rep. Jason Zachary, R-Knoxville
  • Rep. Monty Fritts, R-Kingston 
  • Rep. Ed Butler, R-Rickman
  • Rep. Bryan Richey, R-Maryville
  • Rep. Todd Warner, R-Chapel Hill
  • Rep. Kip Capley, R-Summertown 
  • Rep. Jody Barrett, R-Dickson
  • Rep. Clay Doggett, R-Pulaski
  • Rep. Bud Hulsey, R-Kingsport
  • Rep. Chris Hurt, R-Halls
  • Rep. Kevin Raper, R-Cleveland
  • Rep. Rusty Grills, R-Newbern 
  • Rep. Chris Todd, R-Madison County 
  • Rep. Scott Cepicky, R-Culleoka
  • Rep. Gino Bulso, R-Brentwood
  • Rep. Jay Reedy, R-Erin 
  • Senate Speaker Pro Tempore Ferrell Haile, R-Gallatin 
  • Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson, R-Franklin 
  • Senate Republican Caucus Chairman Ken Yager, R-Kingston
  • Sen. Janice Bowling, R-Manchester 
  • Sen. Paul Bailey, R-Sparta 
  • Sen. Joey Hensley, R-Hohenwald
  • Sen. Adam Lowe, R-Calhoun
  • Sen. Shane Reeves, R-Murfreesboro
  • Sen. John Stevens, R-Huntington 

Will wait to see final bill text and/or hear testimony – too early to say (10)

  • House Republican Caucus Chairman Jeremy Faison, R-Cosby
  • Rep. John Crawford, R-Kingsport
  • Rep. Mike Sparks, R-Smyrna
  • Rep. Charlie Baum, R-Murfreesboro
  • Rep. John Ragan, R-Oak Ridge  
  • Rep. Gloria Johnson, D-Knoxville 
  • Sen. Richard Briggs, R-Knoxville
  • Sen. Art Swann, R-Maryville 
  • Sen. Becky Duncan Massey, R-Knoxville 
  • Sen. Jon Lundberg, R-Bristol
The list above was compiled in April and opinion could have changed since then but, if anything, legislators are probably more set in their position. Last Saturday, the Tennessee Republican State Executive Committee members adopted a resolution that encourages Gov. Bill Lee to drop his planned Aug. 21 special legislative session. the Tennessee Firearms Association (TFA), which has donated to more than 20 Republicans in the legislature, has been pushing a ‘red flag down’ campaign and has been rousing their members to lobby against the bill. In addition, several county Republican Parties have passed resolutions opposing the special session or opposing the ERPO. 

Democrats are conducting a statewide bus tour to discuss gun violence which will conclude with a rally at the state capitol on the first day of the August special session. Don't expect this to move the needle. I expect the August 21st rally to be raucous loud affair featuring the Tennessee Three. Democrats know how to rile the base but not persuade or win converts. Dems will want more than just modest gun reform and cannot appeal to the people needed to win support for Govenor Lee's proposal. 

Governor Lee's proposals did not even include a proposal to require gun owners to securely store a firearm when left in a vehicle and now it appears the ERPO is dead.  No meaningful gun reform will come out of the special session. 

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