Tennessee's GOP governor wants gun control

(AP Photo/Mark Humphrey, Pool)

People get rattled after a mass shooting. It’s worse when someone you know is among the dead. When you’re someone who supports gun rights, it can be a gut-check moment, to be sure.


So calls for gun control following Nashville aren’t surprising. It happens and will continue to happen.

One coming from the Republican governor of Tennessee, though, is a little different.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee signed an executive order to tighten background checks on Tuesday, marking a victory for gun reformers in the GOP-controlled state.

Lee also called upon the state legislature to pass a “red flag” law that will make it easier to remove guns from people who pose a danger to themselves or others.

“I’m asking the General Assembly to bring forward an order of protection law,” Lee told reporters in Nashville, according to The Tennessean. “A new, strong order of protection law will provide the broader population cover, safety, from those who are a danger to themselves or the population.”

Lee’s call for reform comes after a lone shooter killed three children and three adults at The Covenant School in Nashville on April 3.

The executive order mandates government offices and law enforcement to report all relevant criminal and court mental health information to the state instant background check system within 72 hours of receiving it. The order also gives the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation 60 days to submit a report detailing ways the current background check system could be improved.


I don’t have a massive issue with the executive order–this is information that would be input anyway, Lee is just demanding it done faster–but I don’t think Lee has thought through the red flag law.

Then again, I can kind of get why he’s not thinking. After all, it’s been reported that Lee knew a couple of the victims in Nashville. Finding out that people you know and care about have been gunned down by a maniac trying to do nothing but rack up a high body count can absolutely destroy you.

You want answers. You feel like you need to rethink everything, and we’ve got a media that will be happy to tell you what to think.

The problem is that while the shooter had “emotional problems,” there’s not necessarily any reason to believe that their parents would ever have thought to get a red flag order against her, among other things.

Further, the previous issues with red flag laws still exist. There are still due process concerns. There’s still the fact that a red flag order may take a gun from a dangerous individual, but it still leaves that individual out on the streets to find some other way to create an atrocity.


Those problems don’t go away simply because a Republican governor is the one asking for a red flag law.

Lee is serving a second term now, which means he’s not eligible for reelection, so it’s unlikely he’ll suffer ramifications from his call. Yet those lawmakers who follow his lead may well find their political careers come to an abrupt end.

After all, this is Tennessee.

You can get away with this in a state like Colorado or Oregon. You can’t necessarily survive politically in Tennessee by voting for gun control.

My hope is that this is an aberration, a call made out of grief rather than a deeply-held belief that red flag laws are good things. We’ll have to see, though, won’t we?

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