Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee’s administration accused the National Rifle Association of wanting to use involuntary commitment laws “to round up mentally ill people and deprive them of other liberties,” say papers drafted by the Republican’s staffers as part of their initial attempt to pass a gun control proposal this year. Memos obtained through a public records request reflect a rare criticism of the gun lobby by the Republican governor. Lee has praised the NRA’s efforts to protect the Second Amendment but has faced opposition from the group as he works to pass gun control legislation after a deadly Nashville school shooting in March, the Associated Press reports. Lee has proposed keeping firearms away from people who could harm themselves or others.
He is facing pushback from both the GOP-dominant General Assembly and firearms rights advocacy groups, including the NRA, that are wary of loosening gun laws. The NRA’s opposition is particularly notable because the group was a crucial player in Lee’s successful push in 2021 to pass a law that allows people 21 and older to carry handguns without a permit in Tennessee. Lee has been forced to go on the defensive, arguing that what he has proposed is not a so-called red flag law like those adopted by other states. Instead, the talking points show he is attempting to sell his proposal as “the most conservative in the nation” and the best plan for “Second Amendment advocates.” One staff memo called an NRA proposal "impractical" and said "it would drastically expand the scope of government." House Speaker Cameron Sexton said he doesn’t think he and fellow Republicans support red-flag-type laws. He said some other areas of policy could be considered: involuntary commitment, more mental health in-patient beds, better database updating for background checks, a new state-level offense beyond the federal law prohibiting felons from having a certain amount of ammunition, and broadening state law so more types of violent threats could be considered a crime.