Tennessee Governor Takes Big Step on Gun Control

He urges lawmakers to pass 'red flag law'
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 12, 2023 12:48 PM CDT
Tennessee Governor Takes Big Step on Gun Control
Gov. Bill Lee responds to questions during a news conference Tuesday, April 11, 2023, in Nashville, Tenn.   (AP Photo/George Walker IV)

Tennessee's Republican governor has taken some firm steps on gun control in the wake of the Nashville mass shooting that killed six people, including one of his wife's closest friends. Gov. Bill Lee signed an executive order Tuesday that will strengthen background checks for gun buyers, the Tennessean reports. He also urged state lawmakers to work together to pass an "order of protection" law—also known as a "red flag" law—to keep guns away from people considered to be a threat to themselves or to others. A new law, he said, would "provide the broader population cover, safety, from those who are a danger to themselves or the population."

Some 19 states have passed similar laws with bipartisan support. "When there is a clear need for action, I think that we have an obligation to remind people that we should set aside politics and pride and accomplish something that the people of Tennessee want to get accomplished," the governor said, per Politico. Republicans hold a supermajority in the state's General Assembly, and Lee acknowledged Tuesday that no lawmaker had agreed to sponsor the proposed legislation, the AP reports. Under Lee's executive order, new criminal activity and court mental health information has to be submitted to the Tennessee Instant Check System with 72 hours.

Democrats in the General Assembly—citing the Nashville shooter's ability to fire 152 rounds inside a school in 15 minutes—have introduced a bill that includes a ban on bump stock conversion kits and high-capacity magazines. While the governor's proposals are more modest, Lee, a "Republican governor in a red state, deserves credit for going as far as he did," the Washington Post editorial board writes. "His ideas may not represent the gold standard. But under the circumstances, bronze is better than nothing." (More Tennessee stories.)

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