House turmoil focus of special session coverage

Gun protesters unfurl a banner in the gallery of the House chamber on Aug. 28, 2023. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

The silencing of Rep. Justin Jones (D-Nashville) and subsequent walkout by House Democrats dominated the news coverage of Monday’s special session. Here are the headline:

Associated Press: GOP silences ‘Tennessee Three’ Democrat on House floor for day on ‘out of order’ rule; crowd erupts.

Tennessee Lookout: Democrats walk out over Jones silencing, as House-Senate remain in stalemate.

USA Today: Republican lawmakers silence ‘Tennessee Three’ Democrat on House floor for day on ‘out of order’ rule.

New York Times: Tennessee G.O.P. Again Silences Democratic Lawmaker Justin Jones.

Daily Memphian: House Speaker ejects audience, silences Jones in special session; Democrats walk off in protest.

WKRN-TV: Democrats walk out of House session after Rep. Jones silenced; Gallery cleared.

WTFV-TV: Rep. Justin Jones has been silenced from the House on Monday. Democrats left. The public screamed.

WREG-TV: Democrats walk out of House session after Rep. Jones silenced; Gallery cleared.

WMC-TV: Member of ‘Tennessee Three’ silenced on House floor as special session stalemate between House and Senate continues.

Group calls on Lee to cancel special session over public safety concerns

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)

The Tennessee Faith and Freedom Coalition is calling on Gov. Bill Lee to cancel a planned special session in August due to public safety concerns about what it calls “schemes made by Marxist agitators targeting said session.”

The letter is signed by the group’s board members Aaron Spradlin, Scott Nelson, Dave Galbraith, and Greg Lewis.

Here’s the letter sent to the governor on Tuesday:

Governor Lee, 

It is important to note, before we get into our main issue of disagreement with you, sir, that we, the Tennessee Faith and Freedom Coalition, recognize that there are many important things we do agree with you on. To name a few issues from just this past year, we want to commend your commitment to defending the unborn and the right to life, conservative criminal justice reform, and legislation that you’ve signed defending children against mutilation. 

Today, we are writing you because you have made it clear that you are planning to use your authority to officially call an ill-advised special session of the Tennessee General Assembly on August 21st  to address gun issues in the aftermath of the Covenant School shooting tragedy, a heinous and despicable act committed by a mentally ill individual who claimed to be on the transgender spectrum. 

In the interest of public safety, the safety of downtown Nashville, the safety of those brave men and women charged with maintaining order at the Capitol, the safety of legislators, staff, interns, and visitors, and in  defense of the Constitution – we, the Board of the Tennessee Faith and Freedom Coalition, plainly and emphatically oppose the calling of a special session of the General Assembly on this issue and are prayerfully writing to strongly urge that you reverse course on your plan, not call a special session, and wait until normal session in January to make proposals for the legislature to consider – as is the normal process of government. 

As you and the public are aware, that heinous act of the murder of six individuals has been politicized by far Left activists and anti-Second Amendment groups funded by Leftist interests, the Biden Administration, Marxist agitators in the General Assembly who nearly started a riot over legislatures lack of desire to take away our Second Amendment constitutional rights – namely Justin Jones, Justin Pearson, and Gloria Johnson, and others who wish to make every inroad they can in order to fulfil their ultimate goal of eliminating the constitutional protections that exist in the Second Amendment. 

As you are aware, due to reporting by The Tennessee Star, SuperTalk 99.7 WTN, and other media organizations, Marxist groups that include, Planned Parenthood and the so-called “Tennessee 3” protest organizers have already held at least one meeting in which audio was obtained that demonstrates clear and cohesive planning for agitators and potential terrorists to disrupt a special session. That same audio also contains details that some of the agitators will be armed and that they are planning to be arrested. 

If nothing else, this proposed special session currently scheduled for August 21st has become a rallying cry and a clarion call for every Marxist, Leftist, Soros-funded, and anti-Second Amendment organization across the United States to come to Nashville and, as said in the leaked audio, “____ it up.” 

It is important to oppose any encroachment on the Constitution and we firmly oppose Red Flag laws. The Tennessee Faith and Freedom Coalition has nothing but the highest praise for the leadership and members of the Tennessee General Assembly who are defending the U.S. Constitution against Red Flag laws, leadership that includes: House Majority Leader William Lamberth (who actively blocked a Red Flag bill presented at the end of this past session), Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson, Senator John Stevens, Representative Chris Todd, Representative Rusty Grills, Representative Jason Zachary, Representative Jody Barrett, and many others. 

However, given that the General Assembly has justly made public their commitment to defending the Constitution, the more immediate concern is the danger of violence and other illegal acts that are being planned by the Marxist Left because of the proposed Special Session. 

It is imperative that a special session of the Tennessee General Assembly not be called this summer and we again reiterate our prayer that you, in the interest of public safety, do not officially call the special session currently proposed for August 21st.  

It is additionally worth pointing out that the United States does not have a gun problem, but rather a God problem. The power centers of our society promote mental illness and spurn faith in God. Violence is a crisis of the soul, one that will not be solved by passing additional anti-Second Amendment laws. The only way to fix what ails our national soul is by turning back to God. 

Attached to this letter is a statement of facts that we hope you will additionally consider as you make your decision. 

We look forward to continuing to work with you and your office on areas where we share common ground.

Respectfully and Prayerfully, 

The Board of the Tennessee Faith and Freedom Coalition 

Continue reading

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. 

See you in August? Lee’s special session call faces delays

Gov. Bill Lee speaks to reporters after a bill signing ceremony in Nashville on May 24, 2021. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Gov. Bill Lee made a big splash by announcing the night the legislature adjourned for the year that he was going to call lawmakers back into a special session to take up his proposal to curb access to firearms by people with significant mental problems. Many expected the governor to issue the call by the middle of May.

But amid tepid support for the Lee’s proposed language, several Republicans tell The Tennessee Journal they now expect the special session won’t take place until August – or even September.

Even Lee’s backers are wary of having the measure labeled a “red flag” law, which gun rights supporters argue infringe on Second Amendment rights. Democratic President Joe Biden didn’t help matters for Tennessee Republicans when he commended Lee in the aftermath of the Covenant School shooting for expanding background checks and “calling on the Tennessee statehouse to pass a red flag law.”

GOP leaders in the House and Senate are understood to have warned Lee that calling them into session next month would result in either the bill failing outright – or enough absences to deny a quorum for proceedings to get underway.

It remains to be seen whether Lee takes heed of concerns raised by lawmakers or presses ahead with a bill even if it’s doomed to failure. Lee and his wife, Maria, were close friends of one of the teachers fatally shot at the Covenant School and may want to demonstrate they were willing to try to do something, even if lawmakers don’t go along. Some observers liken the situation to when Gov. Bill Haslam pressed ahead with his Medicaid expansion proposal in 2015 despite a widespread recognition that it was unlikely to pass.

Read the language of the ‘extreme risk’ amendment backed by Lee

The Tennessean‘s Melissa Brown reports Gov. Bill Lee is backing an “extreme risk” order of protection bill to block access to firearms for up to 180 days for people who might be a harm to others. The move comes in the aftermath of the mass shooting at the Covenant School in Nashville.

“We all agree that dangerous, unstable individuals who intend to harm themselves or others should not have access to weapons,” Lee said in a recorded video statement. “And that should be done in a way that requires due process and a high burden of proof, supports law enforcement and punishes false reporting, enhances mental health support, and preserves the Second Amendment for law-abiding citizens.”

UPDATE: House Republicans don’t seem particularly interested in pursuing the measure:

Here is the proposed language of the measure:

SECTION 1. Tennessee Code Annotated, Title 39, Chapter 17, Part 13, is amended by adding the following new sections:


As used in this section and §§ 39-17-1368 – 39-17-1377:

(1)          “Mental illness” means a psychiatric disorder, alcohol dependence, or drug dependence, but does not include intellectual disability or other developmental disabilities;

(2)          “Serious behavioral condition” means a condition in a person who currently or at any time during the past year has had a diagnosable mental, behavioral, or emotional disorder of sufficient duration to meet psychiatric diagnostic criteria that results in functional impairment that substantially interferes with or limits the person’s role or functioning in family, school, occupational, or community activities and includes any mental disorder, regardless of whether it is of biological etiology;

(3)          “Serious emotional disturbance” means the same as defined in § 33- 1-101; and

(4)          “Substantial likelihood of serious harm”:

(A)          Means the respondent does one (1) or more of the following, as evidenced by a substantial step toward the commission of a violent or unlawful act:

(i)            Threatens or attempts suicide or to inflict serious bodily harm on the respondent’s self;

 (ii)          Threatens or attempts homicide or other violent behavior against another; or

(iii)          Places another in reasonable fear of violent behavior and serious physical harm; and

(B)          Shall not be found based solely on:

(i)            The mere possession of firearms or ammunition that a person lawfully owns or possesses;

(ii)           The commission of any act of self-defense or defense of another that is lawfully justified under § 39-11-611 or § 39-11- 612; or

(iii)          The fact that a person, including, but not limited to, a veteran of the United States armed forces, is receiving treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder.



(1)          There is created an action known as a petition for a temporary mental health order of protection, which may only be filed by a law enforcement officer or law enforcement agency.

(2)          A petition for a temporary mental health order of protection:

(A)          Must be filed in the county where the respondent resides;

(B)          Does not require the petitioner to be represented by an attorney or post a bond and cannot result in an award of attorney fees;

(C)          Must allege that the respondent poses a substantial likelihood of serious harm by having a firearm or any ammunition in the respondent’s custody or control or by purchasing, possessing, or receiving a firearm or any ammunition, and must be accompanied by a sworn statement providing the specific statements, actions, or facts that give rise to the petition;

(D)          Identify whether there is a known existing order of protection governing the respondent under title 36, chapter 3, part 6 or under any other applicable statute; and

(E)          Include a physical description of the respondent and the respondent’s last known location.

(3)          The petitioner must make a good faith effort to provide notice of the petition to any known third party who the petitioner asserts in the petition may be at risk of violence.

(4)          A court or a public agency shall not charge fees for filing or for service of process to a petitioner seeking relief under this section.


(A)          Except as provided in subdivision (a)(5)(B), the general sessions courts, circuit courts, and chancery courts of this state have jurisdiction over proceedings under this section.

(B)          The juvenile courts of this state have jurisdiction over proceedings brought against minors under this section.


(1)          Upon receipt of a petition, the court must order:

(A)          A hearing to be held at least three (3) days but no later than five (5) days after the date the petition is filed and must issue a notice of hearing to the respondent. The hearing may be held more than five (5) days after the petition is filed, only at the request of the respondent, but in no event should the hearing be held more than ten (10) days after the petition is filed;


(i)            The appointment of an attorney to represent the respondent. The respondent may elect to employ an attorney of the respondent’s choosing, who should file a notice of appearance with the clerk of the court. A court-appointed attorney shall be paid for services by the administrative office of the courts at the rate set in Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 13; and

(ii)           If the court determines based on the petition that the respondent is not able to understand the nature of the proceedings and cannot communicate with counsel in the conduct of the case or if the respondent is a minor, then the court may appoint another person to serve as the respondent’s guardian ad litem. An attorney representing the respondent shall not serve as guardian ad litem; and

(C)          The respondent to undergo an assessment for suicidal or homicidal ideation by an evaluator who has been certified by the commissioner of mental health and substance abuse services, which must occur prior to the hearing. When making this determination, the evaluator and the evaluator’s employer are immune from any civil liability and have an affirmative defense to any criminal liability arising from the evaluation.

(2)          The clerk of the court shall cause a copy of the petition and the order setting a hearing, appointing counsel, and requiring an assessment to be forwarded on or before the next business day to the appropriate law enforcement agency for service upon the respondent as provided in § 39-17-1369.

Continue reading

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.

Permitless carry: How they voted

House members attend a floor session in Nashville on Jan. 12, 2021. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

The House voted 64-29 to pass a bill eliminating training and background check requirements in order to carry a loaded handgun in public. The Senate previously approved its version on a 23-9 vote. The bill now heads for Gov. Bill Lee’s signature.

The measure is opposed by law enforcement groups, though sponsors noted they had heard from several officers and sheriff’s deputies that they supported the measure.

The House bill gained the support of 63 Republicans and one Democrat, Rep. John Mark Windle of Livingston. Twenty-four Democrats voted against the measure, plus five Republicans voted against the bill: John Gillespie of Memphis, Patsy Hazlewood of Signal Mountain, Eddie Mannis of Knoxville, Mark White of Memphis, and Sam Whitson of Franklin. Five other GOP members were absent or abstained.

In the Senate, all six Democrats plus three Republicans voted against the bill: Sens. Richard Briggs of Knoxville, Brian Kelsey of Memphis, and Becky Massey of Knoxville.

(See the House rollcall after the jump.)

Continue reading

Lee to lead efforts to remove handgun carry permit requirement

Gov. Bill Lee delivers his second State of the State address in Nashville on Feb. 3, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)Gov. Bill Lee announced Thursday he will lead efforts to get rid of Tennessee’s requirement to obtain a state-issued permit in order to carry handguns in public.

Here’s the release from the governor’s office:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Today, Gov. Bill Lee announced that he is proposing legislation to advance the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding Tennesseans by implementing a Constitutional Carry law.  

“The Second Amendment is clear and concise and secures the freedoms of law-abiding citizens to keep and bear arms,” said Gov. Bill Lee. “I am pleased to announce Constitutional Carry legislation today that will protect the Second Amendment rights of Tennesseans, while also stiffening penalties on criminals who steal or illegally possess firearms. I appreciate Lt. Governor McNally and Speaker Sexton for helping to lead the way on this important issue.”

The governor’s legislation would extend the constitutional right to carry a handgun to all law-abiding citizens with or without a permit who are 21 and older, except in current restricted areas.

The legislation also includes several increased penalties for firearm-related crime to promote public safety including:

  • Increasing the penalty for theft of a firearm to a felony;
  • Providing a sentencing enhancement for theft of a firearm in a car;
  • Increasing the minimum sentence for theft of a firearm from 30 days to 180 days;
  • Increasing the sentences for unlawful possession of a firearm by violent felons and felony drug offenders, possession of a handgun by a felon, and unlawfully providing a handgun to a juvenile or allowing a juvenile to possess a handgun.

Continue reading

Sethi opposes background checks, red flag laws

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Manny Sethi says he opposes universal background checks for gun purchases. He’s also against so-called red flag laws, which allow judges to issue orders allowing law enforcement to confiscate guns from people found to be a danger to themselves or others.

Here’s Sethi’s tweet about guns:

Sethi is running against former U.S. Ambassador Bill Hagerty for the GOP nomination to succeed retiring Sen. Lamar Alexander.


Lee won’t lift gun ban within state Capitol

Gov.-elect Bill Lee won’t lift the ban on firearms within the state Capitol when he takes office.

That’s according to Sam Stockard over at the Daily Memphian.

“I think the regulations as they are will stand. I’m not going to change that,” Lee said.

As of the start of the year, 628,427 Tennesseans had state-issued permits to carry firearms in public. The state suspended or revoked 2,252 permits for criminal charges or orders of protection in domestic violence cases. Another 2,882 permit applications were denied.

The General Assembly began allowing handgun carry permit holders to bring their firearms into the new Cordell Hull legislative office complex when it opened last year. But outgoing Gov. Bill Haslam maintained the ban within the Capitol.

Permit holders must present themselves to state troopers at the Cordell Hull entrances, and are required to keep their guns holstered all times within the building.

New House Speaker Glen Casada told the publication he sees no reason to change the policy.

“I support the current policy in place allowing citizens to go armed in the Cordell Hull building,” he said. “An armed, law-abiding citizen creates a safer environment for all Tennesseans.”

Democratic state Rep. Antonio Parkinson (D-Memphis), a former Marine, said Lee’s decision to keep the ban in place is unsurprising.

“I think he wants to keep himself safe,” Parkinson said.


Posts and Opinions about Tennessee politics, government, and legislative news.