NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WJHL) — Gov. Bill Lee on Wednesday unveiled his gun reform proposal that he says will keep weapons out of the hands of dangerous individuals while preserving Second Amendment rights.
Following the shooting at Covenant School in Nashville that claimed six lives, including three children, Lee called for strengthening the state’s order of protection law.
The proposal Lee released on Wednesday would allow police to petition a court for a “temporary mental health order of protection” for someone who “poses a substantial likelihood of serious harm” by having access to guns or ammunition. The person must be notified of the petition and be allowed to appear before the court. They may also appoint an attorney to represent them.
The court may issue an order of protection for up to 180 days if it determines the person does pose a threat of serious harm and has a mental illness or “serious” behavioral or emotional disturbance. The order may also be extended before it expires.
The order would prohibit the person from possessing or purchasing any guns or ammunition while the order is in effect. Within 48 hours, the person would have to terminate possession of all guns or ammo. The court could also require the person to undergo additional mental health evaluations or attend mental health treatment.
Violating the order would be a Class E felony, punishable by up to six years in prison.
The proposal would make it a crime for someone to lie or omit information “with intent to deceive” during an order of protection hearing and allow the person who is the subject of the petition to sue for damages.
If law enforcement files a petition “with the intent to unlawfully deny” a person their rights, it would constitute official oppression, a Class E felony.
In a video posted Wednesday, the governor said he worked with legislative leaders to come up with the proposal and called on state lawmakers to pass it.
“And so, throughout the last couple of weeks, I have worked with members of the General Assembly – constitutionally minded, second amendment protecting members – to craft legislation for an improved Order of Protection Law that will strengthen the safety and preserve the rights of Tennesseans,” Lee said.
He said the only thing standing in the way is politics “on both sides of the aisle.”
“Political groups began drawing their battle lines before the bill was even completed,” Lee said.
The governor also rebuffed the labeling of his proposal as a “red flag” law.
“National politicians and pundits – even the White House – are calling our proposal something that it’s not,” Lee said. “‘Red flag’ is nothing but a toxic political label meant to draw lines in the sand so nothing gets done. This is about Tennessee and the unique needs of our people. It should be reviewed on its own merits – not lumped in with laws from other states, many of which, I believe, don’t strike the right balance of preserving rights and protecting society.”
With the General Assembly session winding down, Lee urged lawmakers to vote on his proposal before the session ends.
“We owe Tennesseans a vote,” Lee said.