Tennessee Governor Bill Lee officially called lawmakers back to Nashville for a special session on public safety, fulfilling a promise to do so after the General Assembly failed to pass an extreme risk protection order law before the end of its regular session. Often referred to as “red flag” laws, these laws allow law enforcement, family, or friends, depending on the state, to temporarily confiscate guns from people who could hurt themselves or others. Lee, a conservative Republican who lost a friend in the mass shooting at The Covenant School, has spent the past few months pushing to get backing for an expanded red flag law. So why is there no mention of it in his special session proclamation?
As The Tennessean reported this week, the major theme of Lee’s administrative package is mental health. His parameters for the special session, set to start August 21, are still broad enough for a lawmaker to open debate on red flag legislation, but it appears his lobbying wasn’t enough to convince Republicans — the majority party — to support the idea. That’s no surprise: The governor and the Tennessee GOP have been feuding over the order of protection proposal since he first started advocating for it in April. As the summer progressed, it became ever clearer that Lee’s proposal was a nonstarter.
For one thing, pro-gun groups were opposed from the beginning. So it probably didn’t help when, in June, the Associated Press obtained memos from Lee’s administration accusing the National Rifle Association — a former ally — of wanting to use involuntary commitment laws “to round up mentally ill people and deprive them of other liberties.” By July, Tennessee Lookout reported, a key Republican state senator was working with the NRA on an alternative to Lee’s proposal. After the governor stated that he’d call a special session, GOP legislators repeatedly urged Lee to call it off.
But while the governor might not have support among the party in power, he has plenty of favor elsewhere. Firearm safety advocates lauded his push for a red flag measure as an “act of political courage.” Tennessee Democrats — who are, by and large, frustrated and disappointed by the narrow scope of the special session — are committed to fighting for reform, an effort that’s become particularly high-profile since the expulsions and subsequent reelections of two state representatives who participated in a gun violence protest. Not least, Lee’s proposal has backing from the people he represents: A recent poll by Vanderbilt University found that 75 percent of Tennessee voters support red flag laws.
For Kramer Schmidt, the parent of a Covenant School student, the debate over the red flag law invokes a larger question: “We have to ask ourselves what kind of state we want to raise our children in,” he told The Tennessean. “A state that … will sit idly by when the vast majority of Tennesseans are asking for real reform to firearm laws? Or a state that rises to meet the moment and takes action to keep firearms out of the hands of those who seek to do the most harm to our children and our communities. Who do we want to be?”
From Our Team
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What to Know This Week
The Supreme Court ruled that the Biden administration can temporarily continue regulating ghost gun kits as completed firearms while a lawsuit against the policy plays out, superseding a district judge’s decision to block the ATF from enforcing the rule in July. The high court issued the provisional order in a 5-4 vote. [The New York Times]
The U.S. National Security Council says that Guatemala’s “pervasive violence” and “entrenched networks of corruption” are fueling an immigration crisis. The Commerce Department reports that the instability creates a “unique opportunity” for American gunmakers — whose exports to Guatemala have skyrocketed in recent years, as the number of murders increased. [Bloomberg]
Violence intervention workers, police, and prosecutors agree that social media is playing a role in the growing number of young people falling victim to shootings or homicides. They understand the urgency to curb the violence, but solutions to the phenomenon are elusive. [ProPublica]
Federal judges struck down two of Hawaii’s weapons restrictions this week: A district judge ruled that the state can’t enforce a new law banning guns in public places, including beaches. And a panel of the 9th Circuit, citing Bruen, overturned its long-standing ban on butterfly knives — a decision that could have major consequences for state-level gun safety laws. [Courthouse News/The New Republic]
Texans have been allowed to carry handguns without a license — or safety training — for nearly two years. Many are still applying for permits anyway. [The Texas Tribune]
The 5th Circuit ruled that a decades-old law barring users of illegal drugs from possessing firearms is unconstitutional. [CNN] Context: The decision opens the door for people within the appeals court’s jurisdiction and who have been sentenced under that provision to challenge their conviction. Criminal justice reform advocates see rulings like this as a silver lining.
FBI agents shot and killed a man in Utah who had been accused of making threats against President Joe Biden and other high-ranking officials on social media; a Facebook page associated with the man recently posted that he was ready for a shootout with the federal law enforcement agency. The man was killed hours before Biden arrived in Utah for a short visit. [VICE]
A federal judge temporarily blocked Colorado from enforcing a new law raising the age to purchase a firearm to 21. The judge issued the ruling one day before the law was set to take effect. [The Colorado Sun]
Health care is one of America’s most dangerous industries, with high rates of workplace violence. A recent wave of shootings at hospitals and medical facilities illustrates how the field is struggling to adapt to growing threats. [Associated Press]
Serabi Medina, 9, was excited to get back to school. A rising fourth grader, she made bracelets for her classmates at Reinberg Elementary, in Chicago, and she’d greet friends at the entrance with a hug. Serabi was shot while she was eating ice cream outside her apartment building last weekend. A neighbor described her as “Daddy’s little girl” — after her mother was killed five years ago, her cousin told The Washington Post, she became his shadow and he became her rock. She was a “sweet girl, funny,” a friend’s mother told the Chicago Sun-Times. She loved easily — especially her dog — and she was easy to love, her cousin said. “She would run up and hug everybody,” he continued. “A smile that would light up Chicago.”
What Violence Prevention in Oakland Looks Like: “At a time when violent crime in Oakland has increased by 15% compared to this time last year, according to the police, the city’s initiative aimed at preventing violent crime before it happens is facing $4.4 million in budget cuts… As the department faces an even leaner future, we followed Truehill in his work as one of the [Department of Violence Prevention]’s violence interrupters to understand how budget cuts to this agency could impact the Oaklanders it aims to help protect.” [The Oaklandside]
“What we underestimate time and time again is that social media isn’t virtual versus real life. This is life.”
— Desmond Upton Patton, a professor of social policy, communications and psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania, on social media’s relationship to gun violence among young people, to ProPublica