Tennessee Firearms Association Founder John Harris Blasts Plans to Pretend Proposed Red Flag Laws Are Something Else by Rebranding Them

Apr 17, 2023

Live from Music Row, Monday 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 Tennessee Firearms Associations John Harris in studio to discuss rumors of the rebranding of red flag laws in the state of Tennessee.

Leahy: In studio, John Harris, the founder and executive director of the Tennessee Firearms Association, protecting the Second Amendment here in Tennessee. John, rumors abound and our weak-kneed governor in response to the expulsion brew haha, and all of the young protestors who can march and shout slogans, but can’t think worth a darn, that crowd caved and is throwing together this red flag law that they won’t let you call it red flag, even though it’s a red flag law.

Harris: Yes, absolutely. I hear a rumor and you hear lots of rumors here, but legislation of this note should never be introduced with two or three weeks left in the session. You can’t move it through the process at all.

But I’m hearing the rumor that Senator John Stevens has been charged with writing a red flag law in such a way that people can pretend it’s not a red flag law. Is that what you’re hearing?

Harris: I am hearing a couple of things in that regard and typically when Governor Lee wants legislation put in it’s the responsibility of the caucus leaders in the House and the Senate to carry the legislation.

If you look back two years ago with his permitless carry law the sponsors were Representative William Lamberth and Senator Jack Johnson. Now what I’m seeing, or what I’m hearing, like you said, it’s just rumors because nothing’s really been found…

Leahy: Rumors all over the place.

Harris: Neither one of those two typical sponsors is standing up to put their names on this red flag law movement.

Leahy: This red flag law that they’re pretending isn’t a red flag law.

Harris: Right? I think Senator Johnson was recorded as saying we’re we can’t pass it as a red flag law, so we’re gonna rebrand it is something else.

Leahy: And by the way, we’re gonna have Senator Johnson in and we’re gonna give him a hard time about that. (Chuckles)

Harris: Oh, yeah, no doubt.

Leahy: He’s our friend, but my goodness.

Harris: The moniker or the meme on social media, the difference between moderates and true conservatives in the RINO era is RINOs are just rebranding the left to be conservatives.

What’s odd is that in the talk about the red flag law, the names of the people that would ordinarily carry legislation for the governor are not the ones that are surfacing as the potential targets or the potential sponsors for this red flag law movement.

One name that has come up as being tasked with the responsibility in the Senate for putting something together has been Senator John Stevens. Now Senator Stevens is an attorney. He serves on the Senate Judiciary Committee. He’s been there for many years.

It’s interesting because of all the Senators, Stevens has made several committee statements and committee speeches, frankly this year about the impact of the United States Supreme Court decision in Bruen, and he’s the one that is still carrying the legislation that would’ve changed the permitting system to reduce the age down to 18.

That would have changed us from a handgun permit system to a firearms permit system and that would’ve eliminated the intent to go armed claws out of our statute. Stevens is actually the sponsor of one of the bills that we’ve been vocally advocating for this year.

And so it was an interesting piece of information or the rumor that Stevens might be the one that the Senate leadership has selected, or some might say targeted and perhaps targeted him thinking that he already had bonafide with the Second Amendment crowd since he was carrying a very good pro-gun bill to think he could carry some rebranded red flag law and get it through.

Now, I’ve not talked with Stevens about this since those rumors surfaced, but my feelings are that he’s gonna be very hesitant to play this game because it creates such a huge contrast between where he’s been on Bruen and the legislation that he has carried on his own volition with this mandate, essentially that Bill Lee has sent out that’s just a knuckleheaded knee-jerk response.

Leahy: Yes. You’re being kind. Governor Lee, our official position here at The Tennessee Star Report is your proposal on red flag laws is even worse than a knuckleheaded knee-jerk response. (Chuckles)

Harris: Yes, I would say I was maybe being a little…

Leahy: Kind.

Harris: Which is not my typical pattern, but I was, it’s Monday.

Leahy: We’re just starting the week. That’s of over on the state Senate, and again, this is the rumor. We’ve heard rumors back and forth. And really why with two weeks left in the session are you going to start and write up an entire bill that’s going to change the Second Amendment? The Second Amendment folks in the state of Tennessee. It’s just a pure reaction to political intimidation.

Harris: Oh, yes. It absolutely is. And the Tennessee Firearms Association, we put out an analysis in a written format like The Tennessee Star and frequently some of our analysis is including The Tennessee Star’s materials.

Leahy: We do commentaries. We do commentaries, well-written.

Harris: Thank you. And often in haste unfortunately because I’m fitting it in between conference calls and my law practice.

Leahy: But the reason it has to be done in a haste is because of the quick knee-jerk reaction coming from the governor.

Harris: Oh yes, absolutely. But we did a story last week on why any form of red flag law is likely now unconstitutional under Bruen. And I know that the analysis was sent to the email addresses of every state legislator. I know over half of them so far have opened it. It doesn’t mean they read it, it could have just been opened enough to delete it.

Leahy: There’s John Harris again talking about that pesky Second Amendment. When will he stop talking about supporting the Second Amendment? The answer, folks is never. It’s not gonna happen.

Harris: Not gonna happen. Not gonna happen. There is a huge constitutional question and we believe a condition precedent before they ever get to the merits of a red flag law that is under Bruen can you even enact one significantly, and two New York State courts have since Bruen was decided in June of last year, courts have struck down their red flag law as unconstitutional under.

Leahy: And Bruen, just to tell our listeners what that Supreme Court case was about and why it’s called Bruen.

Harris: It’s New York State Rifle Pistol Association versus Bruen. And it was a case that struck down the New York Handgun Permitting scheme.

Leahy: Yes. Scheme is the right word.

Harris: Scheme is the right word. And here, but here’s the cut to the chase. Justice Thomas, that wrote the six three opinion in Bruen says if an activity is covered by the broad scope of the Second Amendment, and clearly someone possessing a firearm for personal defense, personal ownership for whatever, simple possession is clearly covered by the Second Amendment.

Then Thomas says, in order for the state to be able to engage in any regulatory authority over that activity, which is what a red flag law would be, the state has the burden to show that there was a similar type of law in existence in most of the original 13 states as of 1791 when it was ratified.

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 “John Harris” by Tennessee Firearms Association, Inc. Background Photo “Tennessee General Assembly” by Tennessee General Assembly.