Gov. Lee releases proposal for gun reform, ‘temporary mental health order of protection’

Lee said wants this new law to strengthen safety and, at the same time, preserve the constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens.
Gov. Bill Lee "We Owe Tennesseans A Vote"
Gov. Bill Lee "We Owe Tennesseans A Vote"(Gov. Bill Lee)
Published: Apr. 19, 2023 at 2:43 PM CDT|Updated: Apr. 20, 2023 at 5:25 AM CDT
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WSMV) - Tennessee Governor Bill Lee is urging the Tennessee General Assembly to pass legislation to “improve” Tennessee’s existing “Order of Protection” law before the legislative session ends.

Lee recently released his proposal for changes to the “Order of Protection” law by adding petitions for temporary mental health orders of protection. Lee said wants this new law to strengthen safety and, at the same time, preserve the constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens.

An amendment shows how law enforcement officers and agencies can petition for a temporary mental health order of protection.

According to the amendment, if a temporary mental health order of protection is issued, the respondent will have to give up possession of their firearms and ammunition.

“Upon issuance of a temporary mental health order of protection, the court shall order the respondent to terminate physical possession of all firearms and ammunition by any lawful means, such as transferring possession to a third party who is not prohibited from possessing firearms, within forty-eight (48) hours of the issuance of the order,” the amendment says.

The amendment also says a person would be committing aggravated perjury if a false statement is made or if relevant information is omitted when seeking an order of protection.

“A person who intentionally makes a false statement or omits relevant information, with intent to deceive, when testifying under oath in a hearing in regard to any material matter commits aggravated perjury,” the amendment says.

Lee addressed Tennesseans in a video message on Wednesday as he called on the General Assembly to pass his new “Order of Protection” law.

“To be specific, I’m proposing that we improve our state’s law so that it protects more Tennesseans and reaches more individuals who are struggling and in need of mental health support,” Lee said in his message. “We owe Tennesseans a vote. The tragedy at Covenant didn’t create the problem. Rather, it has shown – more clearly than ever before – that we can do more to protect students, teachers, communities, and Constitutional rights.”

Lt. Governor Mcnally released the following statement in response to Lee’s proposal:

“Our second amendment rights, given to us by God and secured by our constitution, are paramount to maintaining a free republic. Law-abiding gun owners make our society safer and serve as a check against tyranny. Those rights and that freedom is put in danger when those who should not have access to firearms use them to murder our citizens.

Making sure the mentally ill and those in crisis do not have access to firearms while protecting the second amendment rights of everyone else is no easy task. It is an extremely delicate balance. I believe that balance has been struck with this proposed Temporary Mental Health Order of Protection. Other states that have attempted this balance have fallen short to one extent or another by failing to provide real due process and protect against false complaints.

There will be no “ex parte” aspect to this order whatsoever. The subject will be notified and has the opportunity to defend themselves. The subject will have access to a free court-appointed attorney or can retain the counsel of their choice. Anyone who is determined to make a false of the frivolous report would be guilty of aggravated perjury, a felony. Most important is the temporary nature of the order. These orders will not be indefinite. When they expire guns are returned and the order cannot be held against the subject in the future.

I have been supportive of this concept in the past and I am continuing to work with Governor Lee and my colleagues in the General Assembly towards this goal.”

The following is a statement by House Democratic Caucus Chairman John Ray Clemmons on the amendment supported by Gov. Bill Lee creating an extreme risk order of protection:

“I appreciate the Governor finally engaging on this important issue, but Lee has unsurprisingly handed us a watered-down bill. It reads as if he is more concerned about getting all 75 Republicans’ votes on a bill, than effectively protecting children and Tennessee families from gun violence. Tennesseans deserve leadership and courage on this issue from their elected leaders. Unfortunately, neither are coming from the other side of the aisle, and they should be held accountable for that.”

Senate minority leader Sen. Raumesh Akbari, D-Memphis, and Democratic caucus chairwoman Sen. London Lamar, D-Memphis, issued a joint statement on the governor’s draft legislation.

“We urge Republican leadership to put the governor’s order of protection legislation in a committee for immediate consideration. Tennessee students and families are desperate for solutions to stop gun violence and they deserve a public debate – and vote – before this session ends.”

The Tennessee House GOP’s response has not been so supportive, however, as the group released this statement via Twitter:

Rep. Jason Zachary, of District 14 in Knox County, echoed his party’s sentiment by tweeting on Wednesday that “Red flag/order of protection legislation will not pass the TN House...I do not and will not support.”

Governor Lee finds himself in a peculiar position as he attempts to navigate cries from protestors in Nashville wanting change and his party’s close eye on the constitutional rights of Tennesseans.