- Tennessee Governor Bill Lee signed an executive order Tuesday tightening the state’s gun laws two weeks after a shooting at Nashville’s Covenant School left six dead, including three children.
- Following protests calling for stricter gun laws, the order sets a three-day deadline for law enforcement to report new criminal activity and court-related mental health information to Tennessee’s Instant Check System.
- The order comes a week after a school safety package passed the Tennessee House in a bipartisan vote.
- The Covenant School shooter, who reportedly had been under mental health treatment, was able to legally purchase the weapons used in the shooting.
Tennessee Governor Bill Lee signed on Tuesday an executive order tightening the state’s gun laws two weeks after a shooting at Nashville’s Covenant School left six dead, including three children.
Calls for stricter gun laws resurfaced after the shooting at the Christian elementary school on March 27, when Audrey Hale entered the school with two rifles and a handgun. Two weeks later, on Monday, a shooter opened fire at a bank in Louisville, Kentucky, with an AR-15-style rifle, killing five and injuring eight others. Protests have since occurred across the nation, and two Tennessee Democratic legislators were expelled from the GOP-controlled House after leading a protest on the chamber’s floor demanding that the state implement stricter gun laws.
Amid that political drama, Lee signed an “order of protection law,” in his words. It sets a three-day deadline for law enforcement to report new criminal activity and court-related mental health information to the Tennessee Instant Check System, the state’s background check system.
The executive order by the GOP governor comes amidst political turmoil for Republicans, who have received the brunt of the criticism from citizens and fellow lawmakers. Last week, more than 7,000 students left school and marched to the Tennessee Capitol to demand gun safety legislation.
“The truth is, we are facing evil itself, and we can’t stop evil, but we can do something,” Lee told reporters at a press conference on Tuesday. Lee then urged legislators to work together to find a solution.
Tennessee House Speaker Cameron Sexton told Newsweek the House was willing to work toward “bipartisan solutions” to protect children.
“We all appreciate Governor Lee’s leadership and his commitment to finding solutions to stop tragedies like the Covenant School shooting from two weeks ago,” Sexton said. “As we look at mental health orders of protection, they must have a level of due process, protections from fraudulent claims and a quick judicial hearing for individuals who pose imminent threats.”
The Covenant School shooter reportedly was seeing a doctor for an emotional disorder but was still able to legally purchase the weapons used in the shooting. The shooter’s parents believed the shooter shouldn’t have possessed guns because of her condition, according to reports.
The new executive order aims to “separate dangerous people from firearms while conserving constitutional rights,” according to Lee.
The order also comes a week after a school safety package passed the Tennessee House in a bipartisan vote. The package strengthens security at public and private schools throughout the state by providing funding for an armed security guard at each school.
“That [school safety package] bill was the next step, but it wasn’t the last step,” Lee said. “We can all agree it is possible and it is important that we find a way to remove individuals who are a threat to themselves or to our society to remove them from access to weapons.”