Governor Bill Lee doubled down Tuesday afternoon on his call for a Tennessee General Assembly special session to address red flag laws with host Matt Murphy on 99.7 WTN.
Murphy: Governor, I know that you’re limited on time, so I want to get into the special session because we can spend all day talking about the pluses and the minuses of the regular. The special session will be focused on what, sir?
Lee: It’s going to be focused on finding a way to accomplish something that I think most Tennesseeans think we should do in this state. Which is to protect the rights of Tennesseeans. And in particular in this, with regard to this issue that we’re talking about, I’m going to talk about in particular, the Second Amendment rights of Tennesseeans, which is something that is very important to me and has been from the time I’ve gotten here and protect the public safety from those who are a danger to the public.
So I’ve said plenty of times, I think what most people really agree on is that people who are a threat or a danger to the public, we should understand who those threats are and we should protect the public from them in part by not letting those dangerous individuals have access to weapons and a strategy combined with a strong belief that the Second Amendment has to be protected and aggressively protected. We have to find a way to do that. And that’s what this special session is about.
Murphy: I know you have a hard out because you have somewhere to be, but I need to follow up on this and just ask you the simple question. I’ve talked to a lot of lawmakers. We speak to a lot of Tennesseeans, and I know that you’re avoiding the term red flag law, but even if you say an order of protection, where you’re talking about preemptively taking away the Second Amendment rights from individuals. Let me ask it this way, are people too quick to judge your proposal before examining it, seeing it, sitting down, and talking about it? Because I hear a lot of lawmakers saying that this special session is dead on arrival.
Lee: Yes. It’s important. You even used the word preemptively doing something with regard to the Second Amendment. I do think people ought to. I do think people ought to read the details of this law. It’s like no other law in America. There isn’t another one like it. It’s crafted by a guy who is arguably very clear and definitively has a background in protecting the Second Amendment.
I’m the governor that brought constitutional carry to Tennessee because I believe that law-abiding citizens should not have that right infringed upon by the government. But I also believe that in this state we have an existing law that if a man tries to hurt his wife and is a threat to her in a domestic relationship, we have the ability to separate that person from firearms.
It exists in law today. It’s already on the books. We do it every day in this state. But if that same man threatens to shoot up a school, we can do nothing about that right now. There’s something not right about that situation, and we need to find a way within the framework of protecting Second Amendment rights to take a person that is not preemptive and preemptively take those away. We’re talking about someone who has to have law enforcement bring the issue forward.
There has to be a due process so that we have a court hearing. No ex parte, no cutting short the due process. There hasn’t been a mental health evaluation that shows them to be a homicide or suicide risk. A judge has to then determine that there is no alternative treatment path for this person.
Then and only then if they’ve exceeded clear and convincing evidence and a high burden of proof, there is an order of protection. That is not preemptively taking away someone’s Second Amendment rights. That’s actually strengthening Second Amendment rights for those who are not a threat to the general public.
And that’s what we have said all along should happen in this state to close the, and by the way, this order of protection is temporary. One of the shortest and most temporary orders of protection that you’ll see in laws across the country.
There is a need to do something and there is a way to do that something in a way that is unique to Tennessee, that understands the protection of the Second Amendment and yet protects the public from mass violence. We do it with domestic violence. We can do it with mass violence.
Murphy: Governor, right now, if my informal polling of the audience in middle Tennessee and Tennesseans more broadly is accurate at all you have some convincing to do. Do you feel confident that by the end of the special session that you can speak to enough Tennesseans and by that, speak to enough representatives and senators that they will agree with you and you’ll see the passage of this?
Lee: What I think is that this is what Tennesseans want to happen. I think they do recognize that protection of rights is really important. And they are looking to us to protect those rights and that will have to happen. I also believe that they want to find a way to protect the public, to protect schools, malls, and individuals from people who are a threat to them. I think we can accomplish that.
That’s what I’m going to be talking to members of the Tennessee General Assembly about. And let me just say this, I have a long history of working together with the speaker and the lieutenant governor and the leaders and the rank-and-file members of the General Assembly. We’ve worked together for four years, going on five years now.
I have every intention of working together to find something that they agree on, that we agree on, and that Tennesseans agree is needed in our state. I think we can do that. I’m certainly going to make every effort. This will be a collaborative effort and we’re going to be talking to stakeholders all across the state, which is primarily Tennesseans all across the state, and get what done what they want to get done.
Murphy: And finally, governor, in the waning weeks of the legislative session, obviously observers, and I know you are observing like the rest of us, saw things go off the rails, and I was frustrated as a new Tennessean to watch as national news media mischaracterized this state as something that, I do not find it to be racist or anti-democratic in any way.
And that was largely led by the three Democrats who broke up the floor of the House. And I understand that is the legislative body, and you are not a part of the legislative body. But I wanted to give you an opportunity to speak to some of the mischaracterizations that this state has gone through over the last month or so regarding what happened in the House of Representatives.
Lee: I think that when you started this conversation, you said to me hey, what did you get accomplished? And I said, oftentimes there are issues that overshadow the most important things that are going forward. And that’s really what we’re talking about here. This is the best state in the country.
We are a state that people are highly attracted to. They’re coming here from everywhere. Companies are coming. We continue to talk to companies. Even this week, major corporations that have an interest in coming here. They know that we are a low-tax, business-friendly, and constitutionally-minded people who understand liberty and freedom. They understand that and that’s why they keep coming.
And this is one of the greatest states in the country, if not the best, in my view, frankly. What happens in a couple of weeks over the General Assembly, that are distractions, frankly, and that is mischaracterized by the press and whatever happens there those are not the overriding theme of what’s happening in this state.
We are leading this country in so many ways and we’ll continue to do so. And let me tell you, as governor, I will continue to lead in a way that I believe that the people of Tennessee want us to lead. And I think you’ll see the General Assembly working together with the governor do that every day, and that’s what we’re going to continue to do.
Murphy: I know that you haven’t settled on a day for the special session, or at least that’s what I’m told. Is that true that you haven’t settled on exactly when the call’s going to happen?
Lee: Yes, that’s right. So we’re talking to members within the General Assembly right now to, collaboratively begin by saying, what’s the best date? When can we get something done? What’s the best timing for this? So we have not set a date.
Murphy: My grandpa was a mechanic by trade governor, but he was also a farmer, and he always liked to say, that’s a hard road to hoe. And you might have a hard road to hoe in that field. But I know that you’re dedicated to getting something done and we’ll watch. And if there’s anything you need the Middle Tennessee folks to know about, you know where we are and we’d love to hear from you again.
Lee: (Chuckles) I’m always glad to be on your show, Matt and I appreciate that. We’ll stay in touch.
Murphy: All right. Take care.
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Photo “Bill Lee” by Gov. Bill Lee.