Tennessee Legislature Rejects Republican Governor’s Call for Red Flag Legislation

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Calls by Tennessee Republican Gov. Bill Lee for an extreme risk protection order law were dead on arrival in the Tennessee General Assembly as they attempted to wrap up the 2023 legislative session on Friday without being taken up in either chamber.

The state’s GOP caucus posted on Twitter earlier this week that any call for such legislation, which some have referred to as a red flag law, was a “non-starter.”

“Any red flag law is a non-starter for House Republicans,” the caucus stated. “Our caucus is focused on finding solutions that prevent dangerous individuals from harming the public and preserve the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens. We have always been open to working with Governor Lee on measures that fit within that framework.”

Lee called on the state legislature to bring forth and pass an enhanced order of protection law, which some Republicans and gun rights groups have said equates to a red flag law. The governor’s office circulated samples of legislation to debate, which lawmakers mentioned in comments throughout the week.

Red flag laws are enacted to take guns away from those deemed a risk to themselves or others, but objections to such a law revolve around the due process rights of citizens. Lee tried to soften those qualms by stating any Tennessee law would ensure due process and involve local law enforcement in any decision to take away firearms from any individual.

Senate Opposes Calls to Take Up Bill

On the state Senate floor Thursday, Democrat state Sen. Jeff Yarbro attempted to recall from a judiciary committee a previous bill that did not move through that process directly to the floor. The bill was delayed repeatedly until the chairman of that committee tabled all gun-related bills until 2024.

“We have moms that have been here for days on end, moms that are here for the first time. I think I see Evelyn’s mom here with us today,” Yarbro said, invoking the mother of Evelyn Dieckhaus, who was one of three 9-year-olds killed in the Covenant School shooting in March.

He went on to speak of other moms who have called for “common sense” gun laws.

“How do we not feel shame for failing to do anything,” he said. “Mr. Speaker, I do not want to hug another mom, knowing that we could have done more, knowing that we could have at least tried to do more.”

By Chase Smith

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