TFA’s John Harris: ‘The Governor’s Own Actions Are a Strong Red Flag That He’s Not Listening to the People or Truly a Conservative’

May 1, 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’ founder, John Harris to the newsmaker line to comment on Governor Bill Lee’s approach to holding a special session to advance red flag laws despite General Assembly’s cold shoulder. 

Leahy: On the newsmaker line right now, our very good friend, the founder, and the executive director of the Tennessee Firearms Association, Mr. John Harris. Good morning, John.

Harris: Good morning, Michael.

Leahy: So what is the governor thinking? (Laughs) No one knows.

Harris: Apparently he’s got a set of instructions that were published by Justin Jones. (Leahy laughs) He read the book on how to get rid of Forrest that Jones apparently published and now he’s read the book by Jones on how to attack Second Amendment rights and enact red flag walls.

Leahy: Just for our listeners, what happened here is of course the Tennessee General Assembly went into session in January and adjourned a week ago Friday having had a great number of accomplishments. Particularly I think the biggest one was in stopping the genital mutilation of children under the age of 18.

That’s a big accomplishment signed into law by the governor and congratulations to him for that. And then after the March 27th murder by a 28-year-old woman who identified as a transgender male, of six innocent Nashvillians at Covenant Presbyterian School, Governor Lee decided with three days left in the General Assembly that it was time for a red flag law that would violate the Second Amendment.

He introduced it, but it went nowhere. And then after the session ended, two hours later, he said, come on back. Let’s have a special session. What was your reaction to that, John?

Harris: In the end, this is like kids on a tantrum in an aisle at Walmart. He proposed something. It absolutely got a cold shoulder. So many of these House members, particularly the House and Senate Republicans have told their constituents over and over that they support the Second Amendment and specifically that they would not support red flag laws.

And then he introduces something that he’s called a temporary mental health order of protection, but it is nothing but an egregious red flag law. And they saw through that shenanigans and they basically told him, we don’t want anything to do with it. We’re not going to pass it.

They passed their budget and they went home. And now he said, “Hey guys, I’m calling you back because I told you to pass a red flag law and you didn’t listen to me.”

And what we clearly take from that is he doesn’t understand that he is the public administrator of the state. The guy charged with the responsibility of carrying out the laws that they establish in the General Assembly as public policy. He’s not a king. And yet he’s acting like one.

Leahy: Not only that, in the state of Tennessee, to override a governor’s veto it just takes a majority of each House, which is a two-thirds Republican majority in both Houses. So now, so he says after they adjourn two hours, he said, you’re coming back for a gun control session.

And of course, obviously, that would just be to allow the lefties from around the country to swarm around Tennessee and further attempt to besmirch our good name. And originally he was going to say we’ll have it in mid-May. I don’t understand any of his communications plans.

Late Friday night, John, somebody on his staff talked to the Associated Press – not to The Tennessee Star – because they never talked to us. You know, we just happened to be based in Tennessee for six years and have this radio program here on Talk Radio 98.3 1510 WLAC.

Haven’t talked to us once. Not once have they talked directly to us. The governor then has a spokesperson say I think it’s going to be later, maybe it’ll be after July 4th, maybe August. What is he thinking?

Harris: A great observation, Michael, because he keeps running his mouth without having talked with the people in the legislative branch to even find out what they’re thinking. When I say we, Tennessee Firearms Association, being told that the special session would follow just immediately upon the heels and within a couple of weeks of adjournment, which would’ve put it mid to late May.

We started building up momentum in terms of activating membership and informing membership and putting out some analysis. Some of which, The Tennessee Star has picked up and graciously helped us get the word out. And then we started hearing, wait a minute, it may be June. And then, as you said, towards the end of last week, we’ve heard as late as August, maybe even September now before the special session might be called.

And the call comes from the governor’s office in this particular kind of instance, it doesn’t come from the General Assembly. It appears clearly they’re pushing back and it. And who knows, it may be vacation plans or some other scheduling where they’re saying, look, you call it when you want to. We’re not showing up. And he may be trying to do some damage control to heal some relationships after he’s pulled this initial ill-planned move.

Leahy: Do you have a sense as to whether or not there actually will be a special session after the 4th of July, or will it just go away?

Harris: I do get the sense from talking to some legislators that there is a willingness to at least take a look at the issue of whether Tennessee’s existing emergency involuntary committal procedures, which focus specifically on the person, they’re completely firearm neutral. Do those procedures need to be examined and revised?

And they are willing to at least take a look at that, some of the ones I’ve spoken with. And I think what they’re going to find out is, for situations like Covenant and frankly for most of these mass shootings, the hindsight reports are quite clear that even enhanced emergency committal procedures would not have made any real difference in most instances because the indicators just aren’t there early enough that an emergency committal would even be constitutionally permissible.

Leahy: John we really appreciate you keeping us up to speed on this. And if you could come in if there is a special session, please come in and we’ll outline the details being considered. Right now, I think that the governor’s idea of red flag laws in the state of Tennessee violates the Second Amendment and is not going to happen.

Harris: There is a very valid red flag indicator out there that people should be paying attention to, and that’s the governor’s own actions are a strong red flag. But he’s not truly listening to the people nor is he truly a conservative. Everything he has done is throwing up flags everywhere that none of those conclusions can be sustained.

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 Report with 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.