Ever since the horrific mass shooting at Covenant School in Nashville that left several children dead, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee, a Republican and longtime ally of the gun lobby, has been at war with his own legislature trying to get modest control laws passed — and strategy documents show that he is preparing to attack the National Rifle Association to do it, reported the Associated Press.
“Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee’s administration accused the National Rifle Association of wanting to use involuntary commitment laws ‘to round up mentally ill people and deprive them of other liberties,’ according to documents drafted by the Republican’s staffers as part of their initial attempt to pass a gun control proposal earlier this year,” reported Kimberlee Kruesi and Jonathan Matisse.
“The memos, provided by Lee’s office as part of a public records request, reveal a rare criticism of the powerful gun lobby made by the Republican governor.”
This comes after Lee spent years praising the NRA for protecting gun rights, and worked arm in arm with them to pass a “permitless carry” law in Tennessee in 2021.
Less is trying to pass a “red flag law” in the state that would allow a court to order the temporary removal of firearms from a person deemed to be an immediate risk to public safety.
In many states, law enforcement must petition the court, but some places like California allow concerned family members to file a petition as well. Studies have found that these laws are effective in preventing some types of gun violence, particularly suicide and intimate partner violence. Last year’s Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, the first major federal gun legislation passed in 30 years, authorizes grants to states that adopt these laws.
The NRA, however, opposes them, putting themselves on a collision course with Lee, who argues that temporary firearm removal is better for civil liberties than the alternative: forced psychiatric commitment.
“Lee has been forced to go on the defensive, arguing that what he has proposed is not, in fact, a so-called red flag law like those adopted by other states in the wake of tragedies,” said the report.
“Instead, the talking points show he is attempting to sell his proposal as ‘the most conservative in the nation’ and the best plan for ‘Second Amendment advocates.’ He also is taking aim at advocates who want to focus on Tennessee laws that allow committing people without their permission if they pose ‘a substantial likelihood of serious harm’ due to a ‘mental illness or serious emotional disturbance.'”