NASHVILLE -- Saying "enough is enough," a Tennessee lawmaker long critical of Islam is calling gunman Mohammad Youssef Abdulazeez, whose shooting rampage last week left five U.S. military servicemen dead in Chattanooga, a "jihadi" and charging top state officials with having "skirted around the issues of security from terrorism in Tennessee."
Rep. Judd Matheny, R-Tullahoma, a Tea Party-style Republican who once sponsored a bill that as originally introduced would have outlawed Shariah law, said in his statement that "we can no longer ignore the security implications hidden in legal immigration issues, federal threats to free speech, refugee resettlement issues, indirect support of the Obama administration's blind eye to burgeoning illegal immigrant traffic, and attempts to pass state laws equalizing rights and state benefits for illegal inhabitants in Tennessee to those of legal inhabitants."
Extending his "sincerest condolences to the families of our servicemen whose lives were taken in a horrific act of planned terrorism," Matheny said "acts of terrorism are intended to make us feel powerless to respond. Tennessee has again witnessed the reality that our state is not immune from these acts of cowardice."
In 2011, Matheny and others introduced legislation that originally would have outlawed Sharia law, but the Tullahoma lawmaker and co-sponsors maintained that was not the original intent. It was later amended to deal with enhancing state penalties for acts terrorism by both perpertrators and supporters.
Matheny said Tennesseans "first learned this lesson" in 2009 when Carlos Bledsoe, whom the lawmaker described as a Tennessee State University from Memphis, shot and killed Pvt. Andrew Long at a Little Rock, Ark., Army recruiting center. He said Blesoe later changed his named to Abdulhakim Mohammed and spent several months in Yemen.
"Earlier this year, we realized that more needed to be done," Matheny said. "We passed another law, known familiarly as "Andy's Law", named for Pvt. Andrew Long, the soldier Carlos Bledsoe murdered."
The new law "addresses the very situation we are now facing in Chattanooga," Matheny said. "While the jihadist responsible for the murders is dead and cannot be prosecuted, under this new law, all individuals and all organizations who recruited, assisted, incited, or in any way supported Mohammed Youssef Abdulazeez in his jihad, are subject to vastly more severe civil penalties on the state level.
"Now is the time to put "Andy's Law" into action to prosecute the planned and calculated violence in Chattanooga," Matheny added.
Federal investigators are zeroing in on Abdulazeez's background. On Sunday, a spokesman for the 24-year-old Hixson resident's family told The Associated Press that the Kuwait-born UTC graduate had suffered from depression since his early teens and also fought drug and alcohol abuse, spending time in Jordan last year to help him clean himself up.
Meanwhile, state Sen. Mike Bell, R-Riceville, announced today that he has filed a resolution calling for federal action to end gun-free zones at military facilities. Bell drafted the resolution in the wake of the attack by Abdulazeez on two U.S. military sites in Chattanooga, Tennessee on Thursday.
U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais, R-Tenn., said last week he plans to introduce a bill doing just that. Republican Gov. Bill Haslam, meanwhile, has directed Tennessee National Guard and state Department of Homeland Security officials to come up with ways to make National Guard recruiting centers and armories more secure.