Last April, thousands of Tennesseans protested to demand commonsense gun safety laws after a school shooting left six people dead, including three children. Meanwhile, in the name of decorum, House Speaker Cameron Sexton led an unprecedented, authoritarian effort to silence those seeking such reforms, shutting off the mics of lawmakers trying to discuss gun safety and ultimately expelling two lawmakers for amplifying the voices of constituents, leaving more than 136,000 voters without representation.
Gov. Bill Lee recently called for a special session, set to begin August 21, 2023 at 4pm CT. Around 19,000 Tennesseans from across the political spectrum submitted special session comments, and over 84% of those comments demanded children be protected from gun violence through gun safety laws.
Yet, the permissible bill topics topics for consideration in Governor Lee’s proclamation calling for the special session, do little to answer the very clear call from thousands of voters for gun safety laws. Instead, the proclamation indicates forthcoming bills that increase government surveillance and mass incarceration, giving lawmakers the opportunity to usurp the impending special session and ram through bills with sweeping, catastrophic consequences for civil liberties.
The condensed nature of the special session – with usual legislative procedures abandoned, floor debate limited, and public participation in committee hearings stifled – ensures that the real decisions about which bills get passed are made behind closed doors by politicians and the extremist special interests they’re beholden to. This demonstrates a continued failure to respond to constituents’ demands, and clearly illustrates many politicians’ disdain for the democratic process.
We believe democracy requires that voters’ voices be heard and that those they elect deserve the opportunity to robustly debate issues of critical importance to our lives. Join us in calling for this special session to be used to take up the demands of thousands of Tennesseans to debate substantive gun safety laws, or to be cancelled entirely so that broader issues of criminal justice and mental healthcare can be given due consideration in a regular legislative session.