TN Republican legislators, generally, stop short of embracing Trump’s push on gun legislation

President Donald Trump’s endorsement of raising the minimum age to purchase semi-automatic rifles, banning “bump stocks” and tightening gun background checks have drawn something less than overwhelming and enthusiastic support from leaders of Tennessee’s Republican-controlled legislature, according to media reports.

From the Times Free Press:

Lt. Gov. Randy McNally, the Republican Senate speaker, told reporters, “I think the president is headed in the right direction” in terms of raising the age from 18 to 21 when it comes to someone’s ability to buy semi-automatic weapons.

House Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville, meanwhile, demurred on the assault-style weapons, telling reporters she has “a little bit of conflict here because I bought one for my son. … When that’s the only thing he wants for Christmas, what do you do, right?”

Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, R-Collierville, said he backs “discussing” an age limit change at the state level.

“If there are restrictions on what 18-year-olds can do … it sort of begs the question … ” said Norris. “I’m glad they are going to take it up there” at the federal level.

Sen. Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro, said he could support increasing the age to purchase assault-style weapons to 21 and banning bump stock sales.

Two Democrats, Senate Minority Leader Lee Harris of Memphis and Rep. Dwayne Thompson, D-Cordova, have introduced legislation to ban sales of bump stocks. Ketron said that although he wasn’t aware of their bill, he “probably would” back it.

Kate Derrick, a spokeswoman for Republican Gov. Bill Haslam, said in an email that the governor believes proposals to raise the age to 21 on semi-automatic weapon purchases and to ban bump stocks “both are suggestions that should be considered.

… Another Trump proposal to arm teachers has support from Republicans, who want to tweak a state law that allows designated school staff to be trained up to police standards and carry firearms in school.

Ketron said it’s an expensive proposition for educators, and Republicans are eyeing a private-sector firm that’s less costly than training offered by the state’s Peace Office Standards Training Commission.

House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh, D-Ripley, a candidate for governor, blasted Republicans’ trepidation in considering stronger measures, accusing them of bowing to the National Rifle Association, whose president, Wayne LaPierre, offered a stout defense of gun rights on Thursday.

“It’s all about politics and getting re-elected,” Fitzhugh said. “That’s the bottom line. Now if there’s enough opposition [from Tennesseans], maybe lawmakers and politicians won’t feel the need to cow to something they know isn’t right.

“Teachers don’t become teachers to become policemen,” said Fitzhugh.

Further from The Tennessean, which characterizes theoverall GOP legislator response as “tepid.”

In a joint statement, House Majority Leader Glen Casada, R-Franklin, and House GOP Caucus Chairman Ryan Williams said they appreciate the president’s efforts and are open to having a meaningful discussion in Tennessee.

“We are committed to upholding current laws that help keep guns out of the hands of criminals and those who suffer from mental illness. At the same time, we must do all we can in order to protect the Second Amendment rights of our law-abiding citizens.”


Ketron said he would support teachers having guns. He said any teacher that wanted to carry would only do so voluntarily.

“What would rather do, step in front of bullets, or be able to shoot back and save other children?” He asked.

However, the governor did not think that was the best way to handle the situation in Tennessee.

“I don’t know that’s the solution, because, while that might help in a few cases, there’s not many teachers that A, are going to want to do that and B, are going are going to want to take on that primary role to do that,” said governor Haslam.

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