‘We need to do something’: Democrats introduce gun safety legislation following deadly school shooting
NASHVILLE — Democratic lawmakers, who have long championed legislation to prevent gun violence, are introducing a package of late-filed bills to stop future school shootings and gun violence.
Members of the both the House and Senate Democratic caucuses, who announced five gun safety bills in joint press conference, acknowledged they’ll need buy in from G.O.P. leadership to get something done.
Following the Covenant School shooting in Nashville that left three 9-year-olds and three adults dead, Democrats say the legislature must take action before the next shooting happens.
“We are standing here united and introducing a package of legislation that we believe will address the heart of gun safety issues in Tennessee. If not now, when? This is that moment,” said Senate Democratic Leader Sen. Raumesh Akbari of Memphis. “We recognize we cannot do this alone. We need our Republican colleagues to join hands with us. But people should feel safe when they send their kids to schools. Together we can save lives.”
The policy solutions proposed by Democrats pull from a variety of state laws they say are working around the nation.
“Gun violence is a solvable problem that other states have had a meaningful impact on. I implore my Republican colleagues to take this seriously,” said Rep. Bob Freeman of Nashville, whose district includes the Covenant School. “Join us in solving the problem of needless gun violence. It’s a problem that we have been tasked to fix.”
Here are the policies included in the Democratic late-filed bills:
- Extreme Risk Protection Order. Under Senate Bill 1564, by Sen. Heidi Campbell and Rep. Freeman, family members and law enforcement could petition a court for an extreme risk protection order, which allows law enforcement to intervene and remove weapons from a person a court affirms is a risk to themselves or others. Parents of the Covenant School shooter expressed concerned that their adult child who was seeing a doctor for a “disorder” had purchased guns.
- Ban on high-capacity magazine. The Covenant School shooter fired 152 rounds of ammunition inside the school in 14 minutes. High-capacity magazines make gun violence more deadly. Senate Bill 1565, by Sen. Sara Kyle and Rep. Jesse Chism, would prohibit the sale, manufacture or possession of high-capacity magazines, which limits the number of rounds a shooter can fire without reloading.
- Ban on “bump stock” conversion kits. Senate Bill 1566, by Sen. Charlane Oliver and Rep. Vincent Dixie, would ban “bump stock” kits that convert semi-automatic rifles to mimic machine guns. Guns equipped with bump stocks were used in the largest and deadliest mass shooting in modern American history in 2017 in Las Vegas, where 60 people were shot and killed.
- Universal background checks. Senate Bill 1567, by Sen. Akbari and Rep. Freeman, would require that a background check be performed before any gun purchase, including private sales.
- Return of gun safety permits. Senate Bill 1568, by Sen. London Lamar and Rep. Freeman, would re-establish gun permits, training requirements and mandatory background checks for persons who want to carry firearms in public.
Tennessee children and families are worthy of leaders who will keep them safe and stop the next school shooting before it happens, says Sen. Heidi Campbell, whose Nashville-based Senate district includes the Covenant School.
“The gun violence legislation we’re proposing will make a clear difference. The data shows us it will make a difference,” said Sen. Campbell. “This is about common sense gun legislation. Please allow us to introduce bills this session so that we can save lives.”
Sen. Jeff Yarbro of Nashville gave special attention to extreme risk protection orders, sometimes called “red flag” laws.
“In Nashville over the last six years, our community has been the victim of three mass shootings. In each of them, either law enforcement or family members knew that the perpetrator posed a significant risk,” said Sen. Yarbro. “Extreme risk laws are a no brainer. They’ve been adopted in 19 states, red and blue, because most people — most gun owners — know this is a sensible step to take.”
For now, all five bills have been referred to the Senate Delayed Bills Committee.