Tennessee House approves bill that would prohibit transfer of guns to people committed to mental institutions

Tennessee House approves bill that would prohibit transfer of guns to people committed to mental institutions

April 15th, 2019 by Andy Sher in Breaking News

District 26 Republican candidate Robin Smith speaks during a meet-and-greet hosted by the League of Women Voters last month.

Photo by C.B. Schmelter

NASHVILLE — The Tennessee House Monday night overwhelmingly approved a bill sponsored by Rep. Robin Smith, R-Hixson, that makes it a Class A misdemeanor to transfer a firearm to someone they know has been judicially committed to a mental institution or adjudicated by a court as a "mental defective." 

The bill passed 93-2 in the GOP-run chamber with Democrats praising Smith, a former Tennessee Republican Party chairman.

Noting that she supports gun rights, has a state-issued handgun carry permit and is a life member of the National Rifle Association, Smith emphasized, "this is not a red flag bill. It includes due process."

"Rep. Smith, I applaud you," said Rep. Antonio Parkinson, D-Memphis. "This is a good bill, well overdue. Thank you, thank you."

During recent testimony as the bill came through House committees, Smith said the amendment "only addresses the knowing and willing transfer of weapons to someone who has been either certified [or] committed" by a court due to being a danger to themselves or to others.

"This does not establish, again, any loss of rights," Smith assured members of the GOP-led House Constitutional Protections & Sentencing Subcommittee at the time.

Following passage on the House floor, Democrat Parkinson tweeted in bold-type words: "BREAKING NEWS!!! THE TENNESSEE HOUSE JUST PASSED A COMMON SENSE GUN BILL!!!!"

The original bill was rewritten through an amendment that Smith has previously said was brought to her by the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services.

Anyone convicted for an illegal transfer would face up to a year in jail as well as up to $2,500 in fines. It wouldn't apply if the mentally ill person's right to possess firearms has been legally restored. 

As the bill came through House committees, Smith explained it relates last year's deadly Waffle House shooting in Nashville that left four people dead and two others wounded.

According to authorities, Jason Reinking, an Illinois man with a history of hospitalization and treatment for schizophrenia, was living in Nashville when he entered the restaurant with a semi-automatic rifle. Authorities said the weapon had been returned to Reinking by his father, who still lived in Illinois.


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