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If GOP Lawmakers in Florida Can Pass Extreme Risk Laws After a Devastating Shooting, Tennessee Republicans Should Follow Suit

June 30, 2023

Following the Covenant School Shooting and National Cries for Change, Governor Lee Called for A Special Session on Public Safety in August to Address Gun Violence 

With Tennessee’s special session on public safety fast approaching, we are once again renewing the call for an Extreme Risk law or ‘Red Flag law’. Currently, twenty-one states and the District of Columbia currently have Extreme Risk laws on the books. This includes states like Florida, where then-Governor Rick Scott signed a Red Flag law just three weeks after a gunman killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Then-Governor Scott argued that it is possible to be both a gun owner and recognize the research showing that red flag laws can help stop mass shootings. He said that while the lives taken cannot be brought back “we can commit now to increasing safety measures so that fewer families and fewer communities face these tragedies.”

On March 27th, 2023, a gunman killed three nine‑year‑old children and three adults at the Covenant School in Nashville, Tennessee, prompting protests and cries for change. Research shows that, as was the case with the shooter at the Covenant School, mass shooters often exhibit clear warning signs before they carry out violence. If Tennessee had an Extreme Risk law in place, it is possible that the shooter’s parents or local authorities could have petitioned a court to temporarily prohibit the shooter from purchasing guns and removed the guns from the shooter’s possession while they posed a threat to themselves and others, potentially preventing the shooting and saving lives. 

Since the creation of Florida’s Red Flag law Florida authorities have petitioned more than 10,000 times to keep guns out of the hands of people deemed a risk to themselves or others, according to data maintained by the Office of the State Courts Administrator – including a situation in which a father is accused of threatening to “shoot everyone” at his son’s school. Florida’s Extreme Risk law has helped to de-escalate emergencies like this, likely saving lives. A similar law could do the same in Tennessee. 

While lawmakers often try to blame mental illness for these atrocities, research shows that most people with mental illness are not violent – in fact, they are more likely to be victims than perpetrators of violence. Tennessee’s weak gun laws enable easy access to guns by people with a demonstrated history of dangerous behavior, and the state needs a tool to temporarily remove access to firearms from those in a time of crisis. The upcoming special session allows lawmakers a chance to pass life-saving legislation to improve safety for Tennesseans across the state.

Tennessee has some of the weakest gun laws in the country. In an average year, 1,385 people are killed by guns in Tennessee, with a 52% increase from 2012 to 2021, compared to a 39% increase nationwide. Gun violence costs Tennessee around $18 billion each year. More information about gun violence in Tennessee is available here.

If you are interested in our push for Tennessee to pass an extreme-risk law, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

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