Two weeks removed from a mass shooting at a private Christian school, Tennessee’s Republican governor on Tuesday urged both parties to set aside “politics” and “pride” and pass a red-flag law that would keep guns out of the hands of individuals who are a “danger to themselves or to the population.”
Gov. Bill Lee called it a “moment in time where people can come together and get something done.” On March 27, a 28-year-old former student entered The Covenant School and killed three students and three adults. Police Chief John Drake said of the shooter, “Her parents felt like that she should not own weapons.”
“It is important that we find a way to remove individuals who are a threat to themselves or to our society -- to remove them from access to weapons,” Lee said at a news conference. “I'm asking the legislature to bring forth thoughtful practical measures to do that, to strengthen our laws [and] to separate those dangerous people from firearms, while at the same time preserving the constitutional rights of the people of this state.”
Lee asked the legislature to pass the bill before the current session ends. He called it an “order of protection law,” which is often called a red-flag law.
“Our current law is proven and effective in many circumstances, especially with regards to domestic violence,” Lee said. “But this new, stronger order of protection law will provide the broader population cover, safety from those who are in danger to themselves or to the population.”
Such a law, he added, would require a “high standard burden of proof” and give the accused individual due process.
“When there is a clear need for action, I think that we have an obligation,” Lee said. “And I certainly do want to remind people that we should set aside politics and prod and accomplish something that the people of Tennessee want us to get accomplished.”
Meanwhile, Lee signed an executive order strengthening the state’s background checks system. The executive order would require new criminal activity be reported in the system within 72 hours, he said.
House Speaker Cameron Sexton issued a statement saying he was open to Lee’s proposal.
“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 said in a statement. “As we look at mental health orders of protection, they must have a level of due process, protections from fraudulent claims, and a quick judicial hearing for individuals who pose imminent threats. The House is willing to work toward bipartisan solutions to protect all children at their schools, in their communities, and inside their homes.”
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Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.