Time for Tennessee to pass red flag law and keep firearms away from dangerous people

Published 8:26 am Wednesday, August 21, 2019

President Donald Trump, speaking about the mass shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio, gave his support to “red flag” laws that allow officials to remove firearms from someone who might be a danger to him or herself or others, following due process.
Mass shootings have spurred red flag laws in 17 states, but Tennessee is not among them.
A proposal (HB1446/SB1178) to enact a red flag law stalled in the Tennessee General Assembly earlier this year. It was sponsored by Rep. John J. DeBerry Jr., D- Memphis, and Sen. Steve Dickerson, R-Nashville.
The NRA actively opposed this legislation, among other proposals, arguing that they “would impact our Second Amendment rights in Tennessee.”
We strongly support the Second Amendment, but like all rights enumerated under the Constitution, that right must be tempered with reasonable and responsible limits.
Remember, based on the District of Columbia v. Heller Supreme Court decision of 2008, not everyone has the right to own a firearm.
The late Justice Antonin Scalia wrote for the majority: “… nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.” During the 2019 legislative session, law enforcement, firearms instructors and gun control advocates sometimes found themselves on the same side in opposing legislation that provides easier access to firearms — such as watered-down training to receive a concealed weapons license.
These unlikely “bed fellows,” however, had a common interest: Responsible firearms ownership.
We share in that common interest.
As lawmakers prepare for the 2020 legislative session, they should revisit the tough conversation about how to prevent mass shootings. They should not endeavor to pit different sides against each other or capitulate to one particular interest group.
More than 250 mass shootings have befallen the United States this year — an average of more than one a day. The vicious cycle of mass shootings followed by prayer vigils, calls for legislative action and then another shooting tragedy is senseless.
We must find constructive solutions. New Tennessee House Speaker-select Rep. Cameron Sexton, R-Crossville, and Lt. Gov. Randy McNally, R-Oak Hill, can start a conversation about public safety, health and responsibility. Gov. Bill Lee can also lead to ensure these efforts succeed.
Passing the red flag law is a step in the right direction. In the next few months lawmakers with citizens’ help can develop more solutions.
For example, how might the state improve upon its mental health programs? How might the state incent or punish citizens who fail to secure their firearms properly in their vehicles under the “guns in trunk” law of 2013? The number of guns stolen from cars increased by 85 percent in Tennessee from 2016 to 2018.
We cannot continue the same take-away-the-guns versus do-nothing reaction.
Whether it’s in El Paso or Dayton, or closer to home — the recent deadly shooting at a Walmart in Southaven, Miss. — citizens deserve better than inaction and more anxiety.
It’s time to act.
(Nashville Tennessean)

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