covenant school

Special session in the headlines

The Senate Democratic Caucus has compiled 10 headlines as the General Assembly heads into the second week of a special session called in response to the mass shooting at Nashville’s Covenant School. Just for good measure we’ll add our own from the print edition of The Tennessee Journal: “Lawmakers shield themselves from advocates in special session.”

Here’s the other fine reporting highlighted by the Senate Dems:

ChalkbeatTennessee legislature will avoid gun control in special session prompted by mass school shooting.

FOX 17No mental health issues poised to become law in Tenn. session reacting to school shooting.

Tennessee Lookout: TN House passes rules to restrict speech, limit disruptions and public during special session.

PBS NewsHourGOP-led Tennessee legislature orders removal of public from gun control hearing.

Action News 5Judge blocks rule banning signs after lawsuit over group removed from Tenn. special session.

Williamson Herald: State Legislature’s special session brings controversy.

Phil WilliamsHave you seen this man? Lawmakers say Tennessee governor missing from special session talks.

The Washington PostDespite shooting, hope fades for gun laws in Tennessee special session.

APGun control already ruled out, Tennessee GOP lawmakers hit impasse in session after school shooting.

Times Free PressTennessee House, Senate Republicans return amid bitter stalemate.

New TNJ edition alert: Kelsey’s ‘big mistake,’ lawmakers demand shooter’s writings

Then-Sen. Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown), right, confers with then-Rep. Matthew Hill (R-Jonesborough) on the House floor in Nashville on April 30, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

The latest print edition of The Tennessee Journal is out. Here is what’s in it:

— Federal judge rejects Kelsey’s claim guilty plea was ‘big mistake’

— Statehouse update: Why ask when you can demand? Lawmakers seek shooter’s writings.

— From the campaign trail: Memphis residency ruling, Ogles gets another big endorsement, GOP race for vacated state House seat down to two candidates.

Also: Dolly Parton takes aim at politicians, Beth Harwell on “lazy” supermajorities, save the date for the Statesmen’s Dinner, and $700,000 for Cordell Hull repairs.

As always, access the your copy of the TNJ here.

Or subscribe here.

Group calling for gun reform following school shooting gains nonprofit status

Protesters hold a rally outside the state Capitol on April 3, 2023, marking one week since a fatal school shooting in Nashville. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Voices for a Safer Tennessee, a group formed to advocate to gun reform following the mass shooting at Nashville’s Covenant School, has registered as a nonprofit organization and named the founding members of its board.

Here’s the full release from the group, which is also known as Safer TN:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Voices for a Safer Tennessee (Safer TN), a nonpartisan organization dedicated to prioritizing firearm safety and promoting responsible firearm ownership through bipartisan legislation, today announced that it has formally registered as a nonprofit organization under the 501(c)(4) designation of the Internal Revenue Service. Safer TN also has announced its founding board of directors and board officers, who represent a broad range of professional and political backgrounds in reflection of the organization’s objectives:

— Todd Cruse, chairman and treasurer;
— Nicole Smith, president;
— Whitney Kimerling, secretary;
— Clay Richards; and
— Jill Talbert.

“It is an honor to serve as chairman of the board for Voices for a Safer Tennessee and to have an opportunity to meaningfully contribute to the organization’s efforts to advance common-sense firearm safety legislation,” said Todd Cruse. “As a parent, gun-owner and Tennessee voter, I firmly believe that the concepts of firearm ownership and firearm safety are not mutually exclusive, and that there is a clear, bipartisan path forward to protecting our children and communities more effectively than we are doing today.”

Today’s announcement comes approximately six weeks after the volunteer-run group of parents, neighbors, friends and community members came together, and one month after Safer TN’s “Linking Arms for Change” event that garnered national and statewide media attention by bringing nearly 10,000 Tennesseans in Nashville and Knoxville together, ultimately forming a three-mile human chain in support of common-sense firearm safety legislation. Since then, Safer TN has built unprecedented momentum and support by bridging people of diverse interests, religions, political perspectives and geographies to engage in advocacy including:

● Publishing Letters of Support, championed by key Tennessee leaders, including education leaders, healthcare executives and faith leaders respectively;

● Releasing statewide, bipartisan poll results showing strong support for common-sense firearm policies from Tennessee voters with key demographics, including Republicans and households with guns;

● Meeting with United States Senators and other leaders in Washington D.C., to ask for support and have productive conversations about firearm safety;

● Coordinating nearly 100 meetings with state legislators and elected officials in less than six weeks;

● Sustaining a daily visible contingency of supporters on site at the Tennessee State Capitol and Cordell Hull buildings during the regularly scheduled state legislative session;

● Organizing a group of notable artists, including Amy Grant, Sheryl Crow, Ruby Amanfu, Will Hoge, Allison Russell and Margo Price to meet with state lawmakers about addressing firearm safety measures;

● Bringing together more than 65 notable musicians and artists, including Sheryl Crow, Kacey Musgraves, Amy Grant, Emmylou Harris, Martina McBride, Maren Morris, Kelsea Ballerini, Jason Isbell and more, to support a letter addressed to Tennessee Governor Bill Lee and members of the Tennessee General Assembly, asking them to put politics aside and the safety of our children above all else;

● Collecting more than 3,000 petition signatures in support of stronger firearm safety and ownership laws;

● Inspiring news coverage in more than 500 media stories across the state and the world – from local community newspapers to international television broadcasts reflecting a nonpartisan, common-ground approach to firearm safety solutions;

● Sharing timely and actionable information with supporters following Governor Bill Lee’s introduction of an order of protection bill and subsequent call for a special session of the legislature to address public safety.

“It is extraordinary what our group of volunteers has been able to accomplish in a short amount of time, and how many like-minded Tennesseans have willingly mobilized to support this cause,” Cruse continued. “By formalizing as a 501(c)(4) and creating the mechanism to raise funds, we are now in a stronger position to continue advancing the short- and long-term goals of Safer TN, including our efforts ahead of the special session that begins August 21.”

Leading up to the special session, Safer TN is continuing to advocate for:

● extreme risk laws with proven language that would allow authorities to temporarily restrict access to firearms from people who pose a risk to themselves or others,

● stronger firearm storage laws that would require firearm owners to provide safe storage and report lost or stolen firearms, and

● closing background check loopholes to keep firearms away from dangerous people.

Safer TN encourages all Tennesseans who believe that we can find common ground to achieve these policies and protect our communities to get involved by donating, signing the petition, and following Safer TN on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook for regular updates and calls to action.

About Voices for a Safer Tennessee

Voices for a Safer Tennessee (Safer TN) is a nonprofit, nonpartisan coalition dedicated to prioritizing common-sense firearm safety laws and promoting responsible firearm ownership to make communities across our state safer. Safer TN was founded by neighbors, friends, colleagues and community members who came together with a shared desire for change following the tragic events of March 27, 2023, at The Covenant School in Nashville, Tenn. The organization brings voters and lawmakers together by leading conversations, sharing diverse perspectives and finding commonality to champion the bipartisan change that the majority of Tennessee voters support. Learn more at

Lee calls Aug. 21 special session in response to school shooting

Gov. Bill Lee delivers his State of the State Address on Jan. 31, 2022. (Erik Schelzig)

Gov. Bill Lee plans to call lawmakers back into a special session on Aug. 21. Here’s the release from teh governor’s office:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Today, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee announced that he will call for the Tennessee General Assembly to convene a special legislative session on August 21, 2023, to strengthen public safety and preserve constitutional rights. 

“After speaking with members of the General Assembly, I am calling for a special session on August 21 to continue our important discussion about solutions to keep Tennessee communities safe and preserve the constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens,” said Gov. Lee. “There is broad agreement that action is needed, and in the weeks ahead, we’ll continue to listen to Tennesseans and pursue thoughtful, practical measures that strengthen the safety of Tennesseans, preserve Second Amendment rights, prioritize due process protections, support law enforcement and address mental health.”

Starting today, Tennesseans are invited to engage in the conversation by sharing feedback here.

Gov. Lee will meet with legislators, stakeholders and Tennesseans throughout the summer to discuss practical solutions ahead of the special session. 

The Governor’s office will issue a formal call ahead of the special session. 

Lawmakers keep distance from Lee’s call for gun restrictions

Sen. Jack Johnson (R-Franklin) speaks on the Senate floor on March 6, 2023. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

When Gov. Bill Lee delivered his initial comments about the mass shooting at the Covenant School, he was flanked by nearly 40 lawmakers and much of his Cabinet. The governor stood alone when he announced his support for an order of protection law to prevent people who are a danger to themselves or others from having access to guns.

“I’m asking the General Assembly to bring forward an order of protection law. 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 said.

“This is our moment to lead and to give the people of Tennessee what they deserve,” he said.

But Republican lawmakers have been keeping their distance from anything that might be construed as a “red flag” law. For example, here is a lengthy statement issued late Tuesday from Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson (R-Franklin), who usually carries the governor’s legislation:

I am committed to protecting Tennesseans’ constitutional rights, including the right to due process. I have always been and continue to be opposed to so-called “red flag laws” because they deprive citizens of their rights without due process. I do believe, however, that criminals and individuals experiencing a severe mental health crisis should not have access to firearms. Current Tennessee law prohibits those who have been involuntarily committed for psychiatric treatment or adjudicated as mentally defective from owning, possessing, or purchasing firearms. We must ensure these laws are strongly enforced. Changes to the current law should not be made in haste nor come from a place of emotion. Depriving someone of a constitutional right is a serious matter and any proposal to create an emergency mental health order of protection must be carefully considered, narrowly tailored, and require rigorous due process. To my knowledge, no bill has been drafted. I am not willing to express support for or opposition to a bill that I have not seen.

Senate Speaker Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge) has said he would support “extreme risk” measures on guns, but stressed it was his personal position and not the one held by the Republican caucus.

New TNJ edition alert: Chaos at the Capitol, redistricting lawsuit headed for trial

Rep. Justin Jones (D-Nashville) uses a bullhorn to lead the House gallery in chants. At left are Reps. Justin Pearson (D-Memphis) and Gloria Johnson (D-Knoxville). (Image credit: John Partipilo, Tennessee Lookout.)

The latest print edition of The Tennessee Journal is out. Here is what’s in it:

— Chaos grips House in wake of fatal school shooting in Nashville.

— Legislative roundup: Despite previous rejection, Senate OK’s teacher dues withholding ban.

— Legal challenge of House, Senate redistricting maps is headed to trial.

— Interest groups spent as much as $100 million on lobbying last year.

Also: Reaction to the Covenant School shooting from the president, governor, mayor, and more; Stephen Crump taking over as head of district attorneys association, the most recent House composite photo is already fading, and a corn contest between lawmakers.

As always, access the your copy of the TNJ here.

Or subscribe here.


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