MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Four Tennessee mayors, including Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris, sent state leaders a letter recommending gun policy changes.
The letter was sent to Tennessee Governor Bill Lee, Speaker Cameron Sexton and Lieutenant Governor Randy McNally.
The mayors pointed out that according to statistics, Tennessee has had the 12th highest rate of gun deaths in the country over the past four years. They believe the state can save lives by implementing laws that have proven successful in other areas.
The following list contains the thoughts and opinions of the following mayors: Nashville Mayor John Cooper, Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon, Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris and Chattanooga Mayor Tim Kelly.
Require a background check for all gun purchases.
“This requirement would help close a loophole that currently allows felons and other people who are prohibited from possessing firearms to bypass a background check by buying a gun from an unlicensed seller. A mandatory background check would screen to make sure the buyer is not legally prohibited from owning firearms due to criminal history.”
Implement Extreme Risk Protection Orders.
“Known as a ‘red flag’ law, an Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO) empowers law enforcement
and family members to intervene and temporarily prevent those at extreme risk of harming
themselves or others from possessing guns.”
Enhanced safety of the concealed carry law.
“Tennessee should prohibit individuals who have been convicted of a violent misdemeanor
offense from carrying a concealed firearm. The right to carry a concealed firearm should not be extended to members of society who have proven themselves to be violent. Tennessee should become the 24th state to bar concealed carry by people with violent misdemeanor convictions.”
Establish a statewide minimum age for purchasing firearms.
“Tennessee should establish a minimum age of 21 to purchase handguns or any centerfire
semiautomatic long gun. All other rifles (including .22 rimfire rifles) and shotguns could be
purchased at 18 years of age. This policy will make sure that the firearms most likely to be used
in violent crimes and mass shootings are less easily attainable for young people.”
Require and enable secure storage of guns.
“Secure storage laws reduce gun violence and firearm accidents. 25 states currently have laws to
prevent children from gaining unauthorized access to firearms. Tennessee should adopt a secure storage law that penalizes gun owners if a child (under 18 years old) or person prohibited from possessing firearms gains access to a firearm.”
Limit gun thefts from cars.
“Gun thefts from cars are a common problem in Tennessee and contribute to further crime.
Tennessee should take action to limit thefts of guns from cars by requiring cars containing a gun
to be locked and for the gun to be stored inside a locked compartment within the vehicle.”
Ban high-capacity magazines.
“Limiting magazines to fewer rounds of ammunition requires a shooter to reload more often,
thereby making it more difficult to inflict mass casualties. For reference, the shooter in the
Covenant School shooting fired 152 rounds using high-capacity magazines. In the 2019 Dayton,
Ohio shooting, the shooter used a drum magazine holding 100 rounds.”
Protect women by prohibiting convicted stalkers from owning guns.
“People convicted of misdemeanor stalking in Tennessee can currently still own a gun. Tennessee
should pass a law that prevents convicted stalkers from possessing a firearm. 20 states have
laws that ban convicted stalkers from owning guns.”
Provide funding for school threat assessment teams to keep schools safe.
“Tennessee already has a law that enables Local Educational Agencies (LEA) to adopt policies to
establish threat assessment teams (Section 49-6-2701). The State of Tennessee should now
provide funding for school districts who want to form school threat assessment teams to keep
their students safe. Additional funding for SROs is helpful to this effort, but it is important to
note that school threat assessment teams’ scope goes beyond law enforcement.”
Require reporting of lost and stolen guns.
“Tennessee should require gun owners to report a stolen or missing gun within 72 hours of the
incident. Such a law would not restrict gun rights, but evidence suggests it would reduce illegal
gun sales by preventing people from claiming a gun was stolen or missing only after it was used
in a crime.”
When asked about the letter, Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland said, “Over 7 years as mayor, I have personally advocated with state government officials for common sense regulations limiting easy access to guns. Also, I have advocated for laws stiffening the sentences for those who wrongfully use guns, including last week for a bill prohibiting criminals who shoot at others from getting probation with no prison time.”
We asked Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris for comment about the letter. He said they want to prevent guns from getting into the wrong hands.
“We want to have background checks, to be more serious about background checks and more comprehensive background checks in our state and that’s not because we want to undermine the Second Amendment or take guns from anyone, that’s because we want to make sure guns don’t fall in the hands of criminals,” he said.
He said another priority is Gun Violence Protection Orders, which is something Gov. Bill Lee said he’s been working towards since he was a member of the state senate.
“Folks that are under strain, under stress, that you know about, are temporarily told not to have access to a gun, after a court process,” Mayor Harris said.
In a video address released Wednesday, Gov. Lee addressed this as he called for strengthening the law and bipartisanship.
“The past few weeks have been some of the most difficult as a state,” Lee said.
Harris believes while it might not happen overnight working with the governor, change will come.
“He’s in the fight, he stays in the fight, we all support his bold leadership on this front and things will change. Even if it’s not this year, I think we can get this done, certainly before his term is up.”
Harris also talked about safe storage, raising awareness, and making gun locks available to everyone. To get a free gunlock mailed to you from the county, click here.
You can watch Gov. Bill Lee’s full video address here.