‘Get on the bus’: Tennessee Democrats bring war on gun violence to Memphis

Published: Aug. 9, 2023 at 11:12 PM CDT|Updated: Aug. 10, 2023 at 3:33 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - “Join us and get on the bus.” That battle cry from Tennessee Democrats came Wednesday after they unveiled their newest weapon in the war on gun violence.

While the GOP supermajority in the state legislature criticizes Governor Bill Lee for calling a special session to tackle gun crime, Democrats are galvanizing, ready to take their fight to the streets and recruit new allies, using a school bus.

“Ending gun violence and protecting our children is not a partisan issue,” said State Rep. John Ray Clemmons of Nashville. Clemmons kicked off the “Our Kids Deserve Better” bus tour in Memphis outside the National Civil Rights Museum, surrounded by local, state, and federal lawmakers.

”While I salute Gov. Lee for even having a special session, which the Republican party had a resolution passed saying there should not even be a session,” said U.S Congressman Steve Cohen, “the call is extremely limited. Because of what happened at Covenant, what happened to six innocent victims, and what happened to one of his friends, the governor has shown some courage. I commend him for that. But you’ve got a tough job because the governor’s call is so limited.”

”It’s pathetic that this call for gun violence restricts me from presenting any bills involving guns,” said State Rep. Bo Mitchell of Nashville. “It’s ridiculous. I don’t know why the Governor is wasting our time.”

After the deadly Covenant School shooting in March, Governor Lee promised to call a special session of the legislature to craft new public safety laws. But lawmakers are limited on the legislation they can sponsor, based on Lee’s proclamation released Tuesday, August 8.

This bus tour across the state is designed to get citizens to act.

”It’s important to go across this state to hear your voices. It’s important for you to tell us what you want because we work for you,” said State Rep. Karen Camper, the House Minority Leader, “and I’m glad we’re starting here in my hometown of Memphis at the National Civil Rights Museum, the epicenter of civil rights.”

”You at home, you with us here tonight, call your representative or senator, call your superintendent, let people know how you care and ask them to please consider eliminating assault weapons [and issue] universal background checks and red flag laws,” said State Sen. Sara Kyle of Memphis. “We need you, and I’m asking you to join us and get on the bus.”

The leaders were joined in their call to action by Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris and Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy, all asking voters to put pressure on lawmakers.

“Tennesseans don’t have more mental illness or more bar fights or more domestic violence,” said Mulroy. “What we do have is one of the most lenient, lax, liberal gun regulation regimes in the country. And the answers to these problems are not to lock more people up or get the gun criminals and put them in prison longer. We’ve been trying that for a decade.”

Dottie Coombs, a Memphis resident, holds a sign depicting the nonprofit "Everytown for Gun...
Dottie Coombs, a Memphis resident, holds a sign depicting the nonprofit "Everytown for Gun Safety" during a demonstration alongside Tennessee lawmakers outside the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, beginning a statewide bus tour ahead of Governor Bill Lee's special legislative session on gun violence, Wednesday, Aug. 9, 2023.(Action News 5)

The bright yellow bus with “Our Kids Deserve Better” emblazoned on the side is the Democrats’ ammunition for improved gun safety in Tennessee.

”You have to have a license to drive a bus,” said State Rep. Jesse Chism of Memphis, “but you do not need a license to have a firearm. And a firearm’s only job is to destroy. So, we have to do something.”

”We have to continue to work for gun sense in this state,” said State Rep. Dwayne Thompson of Memphis.

Representative Chism attended the bus tour kick-off after learning an hour earlier that he lost a loved one to gun violence Wednesday.

The special session starts in Nashville on Monday, August 21.

Click here to sign up for our newsletter!

Click here to report a spelling or grammar error. Please include the headline.