NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee’s administration has accused the National Rifle Association of wanting to use involuntary induction laws “to round up the mentally ill and deprive them of other freedoms,” NASHVILLE said , Tennessee Documents prepared by Republican staff as part of her first attempt to pass gun control proposal earlier this year.
The memos, which Lee’s office provided as part of a public records request, reveal a rare criticism from the Republican governor of the powerful gun lobby. Lee has previously commended the NRA’s efforts to protect the Second Amendment. Since then, however, he has faced opposition from the group as he campaigns for the passage of a gun control law in response to gun control legislation fatal shooting at a Nashville school this took place at the end of March.
So far, Lee has suggested keeping firearms away from people who could harm themselves or others. He’s currently facing opposition from both the GOP-dominated General Assembly and firearms rights advocacy groups, including the NRA, who have balked at increasing gun restrictions in ruby Tennessee. The NRA’s resistance is particularly notable given that the group was a key player in Lee’s successful push in 2021 to pass a Law allowing persons 21 and older to carry handguns without a permit in Tennessee.
This means that Lee was forced to go on the defensive, arguing that what he was proposing was not in fact a so-called “red flag law” of the kind other states have passed in the wake of tragedies . Instead, the talking points show he’s trying to sell his proposal as “the most conservative in the country” and the best plan for “Second Amendment proponents.” He also targets advocates who want to focus on Tennessee laws that allow people to commit crimes without their permission if they have “a significant likelihood of serious harm” from “mental illness or a serious emotional disorder.” consists.
“Not only is the NRA’s proposal impractical, it would drastically increase the government’s room for manoeuvre,” read one of the memos.
When Lee publicly announced his plan in April, he credited advocates for involuntary confinement but did not identify the NRA.
“Some Second Amendment proponents say something called ‘involuntary induction’ is the answer, but that would limit all kinds of constitutional rights, including the Second Amendment,” Lee said at the time. “It’s not the best way.”
Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, House Speaker Cameron Sexton further lowered expectations that Lee’s proposal has any chance of being passed, saying he doesn’t think he and his Republican congressman bills will support legislation tied to a remember red flag. He said a few other policy areas could be considered: involuntary admission, more mental health inpatient beds, better database update for background checks, a new state-level offense that goes beyond federal law prohibiting offenders from possessing a certain amount of ammunition, and expansion of national law so that more types of threats of violence can be considered criminal offenses.
“If you look at what the NRA is saying, you have laws in place right now – emergencies, involuntary admissions,” Sexton told The Associated Press on Wednesday. “And so use what you have.”
The governor initially presented his bill just a few weeks later Six people – including three young children – were killed in a shooting at a Nashville school. Lee’s wife, Maria, was friends with the principal and a substitute teacher, who were among those killed.
Despite Lee’s urging for lawmakers to pass his proposal, GOP leaders have resisted. The legislator adjourned without taking up the issue in Aprilbut Lee has been doing it ever since called on them to come back at the end of August to look into the matter.
Documents reviewed by AP show that Lee’s administration worked out the talking points in April. They describe the governor’s proposal as “more focused and limited” than what the NRA currently supports. It’s unclear where the memos were distributed or how many people outside of Lee’s office received them.
In the memo, Lee’s office wrote that the NRA’s plan “misses the heart of the problem because it does not address unstable individuals who have mental health problems but are not eligible for involuntary institutionalization.”
“Governor. Lee believes the best way forward is practical, thoughtful solutions to keep communities safe and protect constitutional rights,” his spokeswoman Jade Byers said in an emailed statement. “He looks forward to speaking to key stakeholders, including the NRA, and working with lawmakers on proposals over the coming months.”
In an April memo, the NRA’s lobbying department urged its supporters to oppose Lee’s plan. The group noted that “Tennessee already has extensive civil obligation laws,” adding that the state could improve access to emergency mental health services.
When asked what the governor’s office was talking about about her group, NRA spokeswoman Amy Hunter did not address the claims, saying in a statement that the group is focused on “upholding and promoting the rights of law-abiding gun owners in Tennessee.”