By Austin Newell
NASHVILLE, TN — In a zoom meeting on April 6th, Various Gun Reform Activists as well as Government Officials discussed the issues Tennessee is facing regarding Gun violence.
The meeting came a week after the Covenant School shooting in Nashville, where three children and three adults were killed. Since the shooting, it has been revealed that the individual who carried out the attacks used two guns that were legally bought by the shooter in the state of Tennessee. One of these weapons, the AR-15, has been the subject of frequent debate due to its use in 10 of the last 17 school shootings since 2012, as well as its general popularity as a civilian rifle.
U.S. President Joe Biden has repeatedly called for an assault weapons ban during his tenure in the White House. If such a ban was ever enacted, the AR-15 would certainly be one of the guns on the chopping block.
In Tennessee, gun restrictions are incredibly loose. In 2021, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee signed a “constitutional carry” law, which removed the requirement of a permit for most people to carry a concealed firearm.
John Feinblatt, President of Everytown for Gun Safety is not advocating for a ban on assault weapons or the reintroduction of permits for concealed carry in Tennessee. Instead, he’s asking Tennessee to pass an extreme risk law.
“Put simply they give family members and law enforcement the power to act and allow them to ask a judge to temporarily remove guns from the person who is a potential danger to themselves or others,” Feinblatt said.
Extreme risk laws, or “red flag laws” were developed following the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012. So far, 19 states and Washington, D.C. have adopted them.
Feinblatt argued that since the Covenant shooter showed clear indications of poor mental health to their friends and family leading up to the shooting, extreme risk laws could have prevented it from happening entirely.
Feinblatt also highlighted an example in Florida, which has these laws, in which a potential school shooting was averted.
“In 2018 a school Janitor was acting strangely, he told people his mind was not right, he threatened to bring a gun to school, and he said that when he started shooting his only regret would be ‘that some might escape.’ Thank goodness, the teacher who he spoke to wasted no time sharing this information with law enforcement.”
Shortly after the Covenant shooting, Gov. Lee openly stated he believes that people who are a danger to themselves and others should not own a firearm. In fact, the staunchly pro-gun Governor has directly proposed an expansion to Tennessee’s order of protection laws.
Gov. Lee has stopped short of referring to this as a red flag law, or an extreme risk law. With that said, aspects of the law do match up with red flag laws, such as allowing an individual to request a judge to remove firearms from a person who poses a threat to themselves and others.
Tennessee Rep. Tim Burchett, a Republican, has openly opposed red flag laws in the past, and he is not alone. Among Lee’s party, red flag laws have proven largely controversial. It remains to be seen whether Gov. Lee’s proposal will gain enough support to be signed into law.
The Tribune reached out to Gov. Lee’s office for comment on his support for reforms to gun laws, but did not receive a response as of press time.