Gardenhire, Republican colleagues move Tennessee gun-related bills to 2024

Staff Photo by Andy Sher / Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Todd Gardenhire, R-Chattanooga, presides over the panel Tuesday as the panel moves all remaining gun bills to 2024.
Staff Photo by Andy Sher / Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Todd Gardenhire, R-Chattanooga, presides over the panel Tuesday as the panel moves all remaining gun bills to 2024.

NASHVILLE — Republicans on the Tennessee Senate Judiciary Committee blocked consideration of all gun-related bills Tuesday.

That decision included delaying a measure whose Democratic sponsor had hoped to amend it with a "red flag" extreme risk provision in response to last week's deadly Nashville private school shooting in which six people, including three children, died at the hands of an assailant.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Todd Gardenhire, R-Chattanooga, announced last week following the shooting at The Covenant School that remaining gun bills would not be heard for the remainder of the year, and he planned to move all remaining measures to 2024.

And that's what happened Tuesday as several measures, mostly introduced by Republican members, were also moved to next year's session.

Among them was a bill sponsored by Sen. Paul Bailey, R-Cookeville. Bailey's bill sought to allow school faculty and staff with 40 hours of firearms training to possess a concealed handgun at schools.

Democratic Nashville Sen. Jeff Yarbro's Senate Bill 1029 began as an effort to tighten existing laws on the storage of weapons in vehicles and boats. But the former Senate minority caucus chairman and attorney said he planned to amend it to also establish an extreme risk protection order process.

Known as a red flag law, it would allow family members and police to petition a judge to have firearms removed from people who pose a threat to themselves, as well as temporarily barring them from purchasing firearms if the judge finds them a threat to themselves or others.

The 28-year-old assailant who police say carried out last week's attack at The Covenant School, who had attended the school as a child, was being treated for mental issues, Nashville officials have said.

Yarbro objected to the move to delay all gun bills.

"The Senate Judiciary Committee just voted to postpone consideration of all firearms legislation until 2024. Pathetic," he said in a statement. "We're not going to give up. We'll do what we can to bring Senate Bill 1029 or some other bill to the floor to move this legislation forward."

When asked earlier about the bills being moved to next year, Gardenhire, a retired investment adviser, told the Chattanooga Times Free Press after his panel adjourned that there's an old saying in the investment marketplace.

"Bad investments are made when everybody's in a panic or hysteria," he said. "And the quote is, 'When the ducks are quacking, feeds the ducks.' This has been a horrific tragedy where everybody is all a sudden demanding we do something. And that is the wrong time to draft policy, is when you do something through emotions."

Gardenhire also said it's a "bad time to address problems because you have too much pressure from groups who are emotional — and rightly so — emotional over what's happened. And we can step back. Nothing we could have passed this year before last Monday's time would have affected that particular event, one way or the other. So it's best that we stop, we talk about what solutions may be out there.

"That gives the governor's plan a chance to get implemented on infrastructure of school safety," he added.

Large crowds of students, parents and others came to the state Capitol last week as well as Monday and Tuesday of this week demanding actions be taken, including passage of red flag laws.

Republican Gov. Bill Lee on Monday said he supports a multifaceted plan that includes more funding for mental health and is recommending lawmakers approve his just-announced request to increase armed security at public schools and also provide funding for security measures at both public and private schools. He is seeking $140 million for those and related measures.

"What I think is most important, keeping those that are a danger from weapons and protecting constitutional rights," Lee said, adding "that is something that can be done. And we should find a way to do that, going forward, whatever that looks like. I'm open to that."

In the meantime, House Republicans on Thursday plan to expel three lawmakers who participated in protests over the shooting and demanded state lawmakers enact new laws to prevent further tragedies. During a five-minute House recess last week amid protests, Reps. Gloria Johnson, D-Knoxville, Justin Jones, D-Nashville, and Justin Pearson, D-Memphis, marched to the well of the House with a bullhorn and led students, parents and other attendees in the then-packed House gallery in chants such as "Gun control now!"

House Speaker Cameron Sexton, R-Crossville, described the three lawmakers' actions to a conservative talk radio show host "at least equivalent, maybe worse" than the Jan. 6 attack at the U.S. Capitol. On Monday night, House Republicans scheduled for Thursday a proceeding to oust all three Democrats.

Contact Andy Sher at or 615-285-9480.

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