John Harris: Governor Lee’s Decision to Propose Red Flag Law Legislation Like Scene from Animal House

Apr 20, 2023

Live from Music Row Thursday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – host Leahy welcomed the Tennessee Firearms Association founder John Harris in studio to talk about Governor Bill Lee’s recent proposal on red flag laws in Tennessee.

Leahy: We welcome into our studio, our good friend twice in the same week, John Harris, the founder of the Tennessee Firearms Association. Good morning, John.

Harris: Good morning.

Leahy: We didn’t plan on having you here in studio twice in the same week, but our weak-kneed Governor Bill Lee did something very stupid yesterday. He introduced a red flag law with three days left in the Tennessee General Assembly session, bending to the political pressure from the left-wing lunatics out there who want to, in essence, constrain the Second Amendment. And he sent this to the Tennessee House and the Tennessee State Senate with three days left in the session.

John, you had a strong reaction to it. And we actually have a commentary at The Tennessee Star, Your commentary on this. Can you just synopsize your reaction to Governor Lee’s ill-advised introduction of this?

Harris: Absolutely. And as I was writing it, I was looking for that perfect meme or image to add to the Facebook and the social media post when we put it up. And the one I came across, but I decided not to use it, but I’ll go ahead and mention it this morning. It was in the movie Animal House.

There’s a scene with John Belushi towards the end of it for those of my era where they talk about having just been expelled from the university and Belushi makes this speech and at the end of it, they stand up and they say, and we’re at a point now where this call is for a really desperate and stupid move.

Leahy: (Laughs) We need to get that clip Animal House. We’re at a point now where calls for very desperate and stupid moves. Thank you, Governor Bill Lee, for a desperate and stupid move.

Harris: And he came out on April 11th and said he wanted a type of law introduced in Tennessee. He desperately avoided the phrase red flag law, but everything he described about the legislation that he was calling the General Assembly to pass was clearly just a red flag law.

Leahy: Yes. And remind everybody what a red flag law is.

Harris: It’s a type of law that operates on the assumption that if someone is a risk to themselves or others, rather than deal with the risk the individual and get them some treatment, or even take them out of public circulation temporarily, that let’s go out there and do something really stupid and futile and let’s seize the guns.

But let’s leave them out there so that they would have access to knives, swords, bats, automobiles, drunk driving, and all kinds of other capabilities for mayhem. But let’s make sure we cut off access to guns. And that’s generally what a red flag law is. Yesterday we received a 13-page draft of a bill.

Leahy: You’ve seen the bill?

Harris: I’ve seen the amendment. It’s very interesting that, unlike a lot of amendments that I see, it doesn’t identify a specific bill that it’s amending at this point. So we don’t know who’s the potential House or Senate sponsor, what the target is, where the caption bill is, that it’s going to be put on, but we do see the language in this 13-page bill that has been written apparently by the governor’s office. He’s tried to deny it. He’s put a video clip out. But there is no doubt that this is just your classic red flag law.

Leahy: The governor often says, I’m a Christian, I’m a Christian, I’m a Christian, I’m driven by my faith. And yet he put this video out to claim that the bill that he just threw out there yesterday is something that it isn’t.

Harris: Correct.

Leahy: Generally speaking, that is not an honest way to represent the bill, Governor Lee.

Harris: That’s true. And to borrow a phrase from Senator Jack Johnson, he’s trying to rebrand it as something it clearly is not.

Leahy: I knew you would say that. By the way, Jack is our friend, and Jack was here in studio sitting right where you are earlier this week and said, I think it was a day before yesterday, he said, we will not pass a red flag law this session. That’s what he said. And then the following day, the governor delivered a red flag law for consideration in the state Senate.

Harris: That’s right. And I think it’s noteworthy for your listeners, to keep in mind that Jack Johnson is the caucus chair. So typically if the governor wants bills introduced and carried in the Senate, Jack Johnson would be the sponsor. And I’m hopeful that what Jack told you on the air, cause I was listening, does in fact materialize and that this bill is dead in the water the minute it was introduced.

Leahy: And we’ll follow up on that a little bit. By the way, yesterday I asked Senator Johnson to give us a statement about this bill. And Jack listens to the program. And so Jack, you’re welcome to call in and give us your statement is on it. It puts Jack in an odd spot here, doesn’t it? Because on Tuesday he says we won’t pass any red flag laws, and then on Wednesday afternoon, the governor sends what is considered a red flag law.

Harris: Yes, absolutely.

Leahy: From your discussions, how has the leadership of the Tennessee House responded and how has the leadership of the Tennessee State Senate responded?

Harris: It’s a great question because we have noticed as I reported in the commentary that you mentioned when we first started, that last week certain bills, which had been laying dormant right after the Covenant School shootings were suddenly put on the special calendar for committees. And that was a very suspicious move because those committees have been shut down since mid-March.

Leahy: A little parliamentary, sneakiness going on.

Harris: Correct. So somebody in the General Assembly was anticipating and preparing to grease the skid, so to speak, for Bill Lee’s anticipated red flag law. But we have been in contact with those specific bill sponsors.

We’ve been in contact with the committee chairs in those committees and we’re repeatedly told that anything that might get proposed that might get offered is dead on arrival. They have no aptitude.

Now, there are a few that do. Lieutenant Governor Randy McNally, apparently lays down his phone and gets off Instagram for a moment, and says, I like red flag laws now. (Leahy laughs) But there’s something suspicious about all of that.

Leahy: He’s the happiest man in the State of Tennessee when he can turn the page and talk about something else other than his Instagram habits. (Harris laughs) By the way, just so you know, just for the record, we went on the record calling for his resignation because of his weird social media postings with young men, shall we say.

Harris: Yes. Let’s just say he’s excited about Instagram for some reason.

Leahy: But he’s happy to have something else to talk about.

Listen to today’s show highlights, including this interview:

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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 a.m. to The Tennessee Star Reporwith Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio.
Photo “Bill Lee” by Bill Lee.