State Senator Jack Johnson: ‘The Tennessee General Assembly Will Not Pass Any Red Flag Law, Period’

Apr 18, 2023

Live from Music Row, Tuesday 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 State Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson (R-Franklin) in studio to dispel rumors of the Tennessee State Senate passing red flag laws.

Leahy: In studio, our guest is State Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson, my good friend for many years. And Jack, we had a hanging Chad there at the end of the last segment. And of course the big story this week is going to be what’s going to happen with these proposed red flag laws that have been thrown out there.

People have followed the storyline of the terrible three weeks and a day ago when a 28-year-old woman who identified as a transgender male killed six Nashvillians at Covenant Pres Presbyterian School in cold blood.

Lots of political controversy surrounding that. You’ve seen the Left try to go with the gun reform they call it. It’s basically to destroy the Second Amendment. The governor introduced a gun reform bill. How long ago? A week ago, two weeks ago?

Johnson: Actually, he has not introduced a bill. No. He made a public call for the General Assembly.

Leahy: Thank you. This is why you’re here today. (Johnson chuckles) The thing is, we hear rumors all over the place. Can I throw a rumor out to you?

Johnson: Sure. Absolutely.

Leahy: And you can talk about it. So the rumor is that State Senator John Stevens is writing a bill that is really going to be a red flag bill. But they’re going to rebrand it and not call it a red flag bill. Tell us what’s really going on, Jack.

Johnson: First of all, the Tennessee General Assembly will not pass any red flag law, period. I can promise you that is not going to happen. And let’s make sure that we’re on the same page about what a red flag law is. And a red flag law is a law that dispossesses you of your liberty. It takes away your liberty without due process.

Where someone can make an allegation against you, an unfounded allegation that leads to potentially you having your weapons taken away, that’s a blatant violation of our constitution, and we’re not gonna do that in Tennessee. And let me say specifically because you mentioned my very good friend John Stevens.

John Stevens is one of the most pro-Second Amendment legislators you’ll ever meet. And he is not working on legislation. He is a go-to guy in the Tennessee State Senate. And let me tell you why he is a go-to guy, Michael. He is one of the fiercest and strongest defenders of the Second Amendment, you’ll find out there.

And so when conversations relative to anything dealing with guns comes up, we’re gonna go to John Stevens because we know that he will not stand for it. He is a very smart attorney. He will be one of the strongest defenders of our Second Amendment rights of anybody in the general assembly.

Leahy: So, speaking of the Second Amendment, I always love to do this. I read the one sentence that is the Second Amendment that was ratified in December of 1791. “A well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state. The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”

Johnson: Sounds pretty clear to me. It’s one of those fundamental premises that. It is part of your fiber. I compare it to my feelings relative to the sanctity of life. These constitutional rights when we take office, we take an oath to uphold both the constitution of the state of Tennessee and the United States Constitution.

So we’re not going to do anything in Tennessee that’s going to lead to what one might consider being a red flag law. The conversation needs to be about mental health. The conversation needs to be about getting people help when they need it.

One of the most common threads we have with these situations is that the people who carry out this heinous evil and are capable of committing these types of tragedies they’re suffering from a mental health crisis of some degree. So it’s not about the guns. There are those out there that immediately want to start calling for gun control.

And for me, that’s not the answer, and it’s not the answer for the majority of the members of the Tennessee General Assembly, I can assure you that. I understand the rumors out there. We get lots of calls and lots of emails, and lots of things taken out of context. I have a consistent record of being opposed to any type of red flag law and that has not changed.

Leahy: The issue on this is, will there be any legislation this week in the last bit of the session that addresses anything related to issues of guns?

Johnson: No. No. There will not be anything dealing with any type of red flag laws. And let me be very clear. I can’t speak for the other 131 members of the Tennessee General Assembly, but I can give you my sense of where I think we are. I told you earlier in the previous segment we’re trying to adjourn.

By this week we’ll take as much time as we need to get the people’s business done. But when you’re dealing with something of this level of complexity, there are a lot of moving pieces and parts.

There are a lot of constitutional issues that have to be considered. And we have had a conversation about mental health, and we have done great work. In that regard, Michael, over the last five to 10 years and we need to continue that cuz we do have a mental issue, and not just in Tennessee.

But in America, I think we’ve come a long way in terms of destigmatizing mental health and mental illness. It’s okay to not be okay. And if you’re suffering from some type of mental health issue, you need to get help. It’s treatable and that’s where the focus needs to be because people that are in a particular type of crisis are capable of doing things that are evil, whether it’s with a vehicle, fertilizer, or a gun. It doesn’t matter. The issue is not about how people commit their evil and what instrument they use, it’s about their mental health.

Leahy: Will there be any legislation in this session related to that issue of mental health?

Johnson: And that’s the way I interpreted what the governor’s call was for. It was not as much about, and I don’t speak for the governor, but I obviously was privy to the call that he made to the General Assembly. And I think that’s fine to look at that, but here’s the other thing that we always need to do, Michael, when these situations happen.

Let’s look at the laws we have on the books now. And we have laws on the books relative to those who have been involuntarily committed and those who have been adjudicated as mentally defective. And that’s the term that’s in the statute, mentally defective. That’s the legal language for it.

And relative to their ability to do a number of things, including own, possess, or purchase firearms. And so, we need to look at the laws we have on the books and were those laws enforced. Were those laws properly applied in these instances? And we’re learning more about this tragic event that happened at Covenant School. We don’t know everything yet.

There’s a manifesto that hasn’t been released. I think in the coming weeks and months; we’ll learn more about that particular situation. And did the existing system we have in place now, did that break down somehow? And if it did, then we need to focus on why. Why did it break down? We have laws on the books now before we start looking at throwing more loss into the books, right?

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 “Jack Johnson” by Jack Johnson. Background Photo “Tennessee General Assembly” by Tennessee General Assembly.