Rep. Bryan Richey, a Republican House member from Maryville, is asking Governor Bill Lee to call off the planned special legislative session to deal with public safety.
He said the Republican majority would not support a "red flag law" or similar measures that he said would be in violation of the right to bear arms.
In a letter, Rep. Richey wrote, "Governor, on behalf of myself and my colleagues listed below, we urge you to abandon the special session you have proposed for August 21 in response to The Covenant School tragedy, because the General Assembly can further consider and discuss legitimate measures to improve public safety when the legislature reconvenes in January 2024.
"Summoning legislators to Nashville to enact an unconstitutional “red flag” law will not, as you suggest, “strengthen public safety and preserve constitutional rights.” To the contrary, the General Assembly adamantly opposes - and has refused to enact -measures that violate Tennesseans’ Second Amendment rights, whether styled “order of protection” legislation or any other euphemism.
"Out of respect for the Second Amendment and Art. I, Section 26 of the Tennessee Constitution, the General Assembly has declined to adopt measures that would allow the confiscation of lawful firearms from citizens without due process. Such legislation would be blatantly unconstitutional under the controlling Supreme Court precedent New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen (2022).
"We will not violate our oath to uphold the Constitution for political expediency or to curry favor with special interests.
"At the same time, we have supported your initiatives to enhance the security of Tennessee’s schools, to deter future incidents like the horror that occurred at Covenant on March 27, 2023. As you know, the 113th General Assembly adjourned its 2023 session without passing your proposed “red flag” law, and House Republicans have emphatically expressed their opposition to such measures in the future. Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson has flatly stated that “the Tennessee General Assembly will not pass any red flag law, period.”
"Accordingly, your proposed special session, apparently calculated to pressure legislators to pass such a law, strikes us as an expensive, disruptive, futile, and counter-productive publicity stunt. The Covenant tragedy would not have been averted by a “red flag” law in any event. Your proposed special session is a solution in search of a problem.
"We can strengthen our criminal penalties and protect our people at any time. It does not require a special session - a session that will be a political event to put pressure on conservative Republicans to grow government and ignore the will of their constituents in service to the national woke mob that will descend on the Capitol.
"Press reports indicate that left-wing activists are planning to use the proposed special session to stage disruptive protests that will make the “Tennessee Three” circus look like a dress rehearsal. Heavy security will be necessary to protect legislators from unruly agitators. Why would you want to provide a platform for such political theatre?
"It is true that the Governor has the constitutional prerogative to call a special session. It is in our view wholly inappropriate to do so when the legislature, which has a supermajority of Members of the same political party as the Governor, has voted to adjourn. There is no emergency, declared or otherwise, that justifies calling us back to work in August.
"The reason is a series of policy proposals that we, as a legislative body, deliberately -and prudently - chose to reject this session. If interparty comity is being put aside to pressure fellow Republicans to embrace gun control measures, we still have a remaining duty to demand respect for the separation of powers. The Governor has already proposed and we have already disposed. Hopefully, in January, we can continue our work together to make Tennessee safe, prosperous, and free."