Tennessee governor calls on lawmakers for stronger gun laws

Published: Apr. 11, 2023 at 10:47 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Tennessee Governor Bill Lee asked Democrats and Republicans in the General Assembly to set aside their differences and work together to draft and pass new gun control legislation.

Governor Lee made that request Tuesday after signing an executive order that will make it harder for criminals to buy guns.

“Tennesseans are depending on us,” he said, “we have to stay focused on the path forward.”  

The governor acknowledged the heartache caused by the deadly Covenant school shooting and the heated gun control protests that followed at the Capitol - made for an emotional week in Tennessee politics. But he said lawmakers have an obligation to take action.

“We should set aside our politics and pride and accomplish something the people of Tennessee want us to get accomplished,” said Lee. “It is possible to get this done. I think we can work together.”

Lee signed an executive order to immediately strengthen background checks for gun purchases.

Tennessee Governor Bill Lee announces the call for stricter gun laws while visiting the Metro...
Tennessee Governor Bill Lee announces the call for stricter gun laws while visiting the Metro Nashville Police Department Midtown Hills precinct on Tuesday, April 11. Many of the officers at that precinct were the first to respond to The Covenant School shooting more than two weeks ago.(Action News 5)

It requires the court system to provide information to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) within 72 hours of someone’s latest criminal activity.

The TBI must also review the current gun buying process in Tennessee and report back any issues within 60 days.

Governor Lee also asked the General Assembly to pass a new, stronger Order of Protection law.

“I believe this will protect victims and it will hold dangerous people accountable and away from firearms,” said Lee.

Senate Minority Leader Raumesh Akbari, a Democrat from Memphis, said Gov. Lee’s executive order is a good first step, but more is needed.

She’d like to see tougher red flag laws passed, making it much harder for the mentally ill to have access to guns.

”I think that’s something that can immediately be done, that should be bipartisan that can really fix or get to the heart of the issue around gun safety,” she said.

Sen. Akbari said she’d like to see a ban on certain types of assault weapons but added that it’s not likely to happen in Tennessee.

The focus now: reaching across the aisle to find compromise on common sense gun control legislation.

“You know, our babies can’t keep dying while they’re at school. You should be able to go to a Waffle House and not risk being shot, or the grocery store or church,” Akbari said. “Just know we are working as hard as we can to get something done this legislative session.”

Gov. Lee added, “We should be very serious about real solutions and about getting real solutions across the finish line.”

When asked for comment, Republican House Speaker Cameron Sexton told Action News 5 Tuesday night:

“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. 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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