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Gov. Bill Lee (R-TN) called for Tennessee’s Republican-majority legislature to pass a red flag law Tuesday after signing an executive order strengthening the state’s background checks on firearm buyers.
The new push comes two weeks after three children and three adults were murdered at the Covenant School in Nashville when a trans-identifying shooter made her way into the Christian school and gunned down students and staff. Lee told The Tennessean that he’s “asking the General Assembly to bring forward an order of protection law,” also known as a red flag law, which would enable the government to take firearms away from those who are found to be at risk to themselves or others.
“A new strong order of protection law will provide the broader population cover, safety, from those who are a danger to themselves or the population,” the governor said. “This is our moment to lead and to give the people of Tennessee what they deserve.”
Lee’s executive order creates a 72-hour period for any new criminal activity and court mental health information to be reported on the Tennessee Instant Check System, the background check system used by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI). Under the order, the TBI is required to tell Lee’s office and the General Assembly within two months of “any barriers to complete, accurate, and timely reporting of information that is accessible in TICS,” The Tennesseean reported.
Red flag laws — which are on the books in 19 states, including Republican-led states Indiana and Florida — specifically target those deemed to have mental health issues, and allow a state court to issue an order for law enforcement to confiscate weapons from those ruled to be at risk. The 28-year-old Covenant School shooter, who stockpiled seven firearms, was receiving treatment for an “emotional disorder,” according to Nashville police, and her parents did not want her to own guns.
Opponents of red flag laws argue that they pose a threat to Second Amendment rights and due process, and do not prevent criminal acts. Former National Rifle Association spokeswoman Dana Loesch told The Daily Wire, “Red flag laws are only about two things: removing your due process protections and seizing guns. The mental health of the individual in question is not treated. You’re declared guilty and penalized in an ex parte process, and after must pay to defend yourself before a judge. There is no evidence to support they reduce gun homicide. There already exist ways to have a dangerous individual adjudicated mentally unfit, or placed in temporary custody, due to the threat they pose either to themselves or others. Not exercising those options isn’t the same as no options existing.”
In a statement shared with The Daily Wire on Tuesday, Tennessee House Speaker Cameron Sexton said that the House is “willing to work toward bipartisan solutions to protect all children at their schools, in their communities, and inside their homes” as long as any order of protection law has “a level of due process, protections from fraudulent claims, and a quick judicial hearing for individuals who pose imminent threats.”
“We all appreciate Gov. Lee’s leadership and his commitment to finding solutions to stop tragedies like the Covenant School shooting from two weeks ago,” Sexton added.
When asked by The Daily Wire earlier this month about his position on a “red flag law,” Lee’s office said that it’s important to the governor to pursue solutions that will seek to protect both the lives and Constitutional rights of those in his state.
Earlier this month, Lee proposed a plan to place an armed school resource officer (SRO) in every public school and provide funding for private schools to hire armed guards with the same level of training as those in public schools. Private schools would not be forced to join in on the program, The Tennessean reported.