Gov. Bill Lee has called the Tennessee General Assembly back for a special session prompted by the deadly shooting at The Covenant School in Nashville, The Tennessean reports. The session follows the March 27 shooting, where three adults and three children were killed by a shooter who fired 126 rounds from a semiautomatic rifle and 26 rounds from a handgun in a matter of minutes inside the school. Legislators will return Aug. 21 under a call from Lee to address mental health and some criminal justice issues. However, the governor's proclamation only mentions firearms briefly. Lee pledged to support mental health reforms, a mental health coverage waiver, and promoting safe storage of firearms, though he is blocking any legislation that would implement penalties related to safe storage laws. “As our nation faces evolving public safety threats, Tennessee remains vigilant and is taking continued action to protect communities while preserving the constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens,” Lee said.
Democrats were quick to criticize the proposals and the topics in the call for the special session. House Minority Leader Karen Camper said she was disappointed with the scope of the special session. She was hoping for a "serious discussion about gun reform in Tennessee." House Democratic Caucus Chair John Ray Clemmons said the governor "wilted in the face of the legislative supermajority." Lee first pitched his proposal in April, just a few weeks after the Covenant shooting as a direct response to the tragedy, saying "Tennesseans deserve a vote" on a policy that would allow the courts to remove firearms from those considered a danger to themselves or others. So far Republicans have suggested proposals ranging from tax incentives for safe gun storage to the involuntary commitment of those facing mental health issues. Democrats, who will have no power under the GOP supermajority to pass contentious bills without bipartisan backing, have urged the governor to focus the session on firearm issues.