Opinion: The chill of Tennessee Gov. Lee's gun arrogance is horrifying

Here's one of biggest understatements of our week here in Chattanooga. And it's the lead of a very important story in Tuesday's Chattanooga Times Free Press.

"Chattanooga Mayor Tim Kelly's call for 'common sense' gun regulations following two weekends of city gun violence is proving to be a nonstarter with Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee," wrote TFP reporter Andy Sher.

"Kelly called for mandatory background checks on all firearm purchases and a ban on high-capacity magazines.

"Lee on Monday announced new safety steps directed at schools that don't include additional gun regulations," according to our story.

This was Lee talking: "There are a lot of opinions about whether or not certain actions actually have an effect on what's occurred here," our Republican governor told reporters during a state Capitol news conference where he unveiled a series of actions and recommendations for Tennessee public schools following mass shootings at a Uvalde, Texas, elementary school on May 24 and another on May 14 at a Buffalo, New York, grocery store.

Huh? What does that mean?

Because Texas can't get its story straight about anything, are we supposed to believe that common sense background checks or other requirements like raising the age for purchase of AR-style rifles - or even an AR-rifle ban to people with no military training - wouldn't have an effect?

Who does Lee think he's kidding? Us or the NRA and its Volunteer State copycat - the Tennessee Firearms Association?

"We're not looking at gun restriction laws in my administration right now," Lee went on. "There's one thing to remember, criminals don't follow the laws. Criminals break laws," he said. "We can't control what we can't control."

There it is. Tennessee can't - because it won't - control criminals.

Gosh, Gov, just close down the state's prisons and save us all some money. Disband all the sheriff's departments and DA offices while you're at it.

And, by all means, lift that gun ban inside the state Capitol building. There's nothing to fear, right? Because we're letting Tennessee good guys have weapons with no questions so they can do battle with whoever is perceived to be bad guys.

The "good guys with guns"- trained law enforcement - didn't work quite so well in Texas, where those good guys stood around for more than an hour outside the fourth-grade classroom in Uvalde while students and teachers were shot.

To be fair to Lee, that is something his "new safety steps directed at schools" may be intended to address, never mind that short of laws - real laws to put common sense gun safety regulations in place - Lee's "steps" are little more than writing a list of do's and don'ts on an open barn door weeks after the horses are grazing in the next state.

Here's the shorthand of what Lee signed Monday:

> Create a "School Safety Resources and Engagement Guide for parents to "encourage" them to "engage" in school safety. (No, we're not making this up.)

> Direct state agencies to require that schools conduct an annual school security assessment and submit safety plans to the Tennessee school safety center. (They don't already? Hamilton County school officials say they've invested about $5 million over the past five years "re-engineering" school entrances, not to mention drills and faculty training.)

> "Ensure" school districts receive guidance from the State Fire Marshal's Office to appropriately improve school building security. (What have fire marshals been doing?)

> Direct the state Department of Education to request federal permission for K-12 districts to use existing federal pandemic relief funds for these assessments.

> Direct the Department of Commerce and Insurance, through Tennessee Law Enforcement Academy, to "evaluate and assess" law enforcement training standards for active-shooter scenarios and to review the use of armed security guards in non-public schools. (Finally! Something that might make sense and/or might not already be a given!)

One group not fooled by Lee's executive order dog-and-pony show included the several dozen Tennessee pastors and other critics who protested outside the governor's first-floor state Capitol office last week. They called on Lee to push for a repeal of the state's permitless gun carry law and move to ban semi-automatic assault-style weapons, along with armor piercing ammunition and high-capacity gun magazines.

The Southern Christian Coalition also urged Lee to put his support behind passing Senate Bill 1807. It's a "red flag" law proposal that enables police or family members to petition a court to order the temporary removal of firearms from someone who may present a danger to others or themselves.

Clearly, those calls for common sense gun safety went nowhere.

The Tennessee Lookout reported last week that when the coalition stood outside Lee's office to appeal to his better angels, they were ignored. They remained there for some 90 minutes - the approximate time spent by the Uvalde shooter inside the classroom before officers went in after him.

As the group left, they placed 19 stuffed toys outside the governor's office - representing the 19 students killed.

Lee staff members gathered the toys and threw them into a trash bin, it was reported.

Chilling. Just chilling.

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