Democrats Respond to Lee's Call for Special Legislative Session

Advocate Andy

Lawmakers express frustration that gun safety is not included in session's focus

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee this week issued an official call for a special legislative session focused on public safety. The session will begin on August 21st.

Lee's call includes a focus on school safety and mental health and also includes a call to address juvenile criminal offenders (transferring certain cases to adult criminal courts and making the expungement of juvenile criminal records more difficult).

The special legislative session comes after a mass shooting at a Nashville private school last spring.

Lee said the session should allow lawmakers to focus on public safety priorities:

“As our nation faces evolving public safety threats, Tennessee remains vigilant and is taking continued action to protect communities while preserving the constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens,” said Lee. “In the months leading up to the public safety special session, we have listened to Tennesseans and worked with members of the General Assembly to identify thoughtful, practical measures to strengthen public safety across our state, including steps to support law enforcement, address mental health, prevent violent crime and stop human trafficking. I thank the General Assembly for its continued partnership and look forward to achieving meaningful results for Tennesseans.”

Democrats in the legislature were quick to criticize the narrow scope of the special session's call and noted the call does not allow for the inclusion of bills to restrict access to firearms.

Senate Democratic Leader Raumesh Akbari of Memphis said the call takes a number of options off the table, but that the narrow scope would not deter her caucus from pushing for important reforms.

“Whether you’re at church, school, or grocery shopping, we all deserve the freedom to live without fear of gun violence. But after a decade of Republicans eliminating common sense gun laws, shootings are now the leading cause of death for children in our state. No family and no community are immune.

“A promise to do something to stop future shootings was made to Covenant parents, but sadly this proclamation eliminates many paths forward. While the narrow focus of this special session is frustrating, it will not stop Senate Democrats from fighting for reforms that directly address the epidemic of gun violence in our communities.

“We promised to put forward legislation that could prevent the next shooting before it happens — and that’s a promise we’re going to keep.”

Rep. Gloria Johnson (D-Knoxville) took to Twitter to critique Lee's call, noting that while includes more stringent punishment for juveniles, it does little in the way of allowing common-sense gun reforms that would keep schools safe.

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Andy Spears is a middle Tennessee writer and policy advocate. He reports on news around public policy issues - education, health care, consumer protection, and more.

Nashville, TN

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