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Months After Promising Action in the Wake of Tragedy at Covenant School, Governor Bill Lee Goes Back on His Word, Refuses to Introduce an Extreme Risk Law in Upcoming Legislative Session; Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Action Respond


Governor Bill Lee Originally Released Draft Legislation in the Final Hours of the Legislative Session in April, and Repeatedly Encouraged Lawmakers to Take Action and Pass an Extreme Risk Law, saying “We owe Tennesseans a vote.”

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Tennessee chapters of Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Action, both part of Everytown for Gun Safety’s grassroots network, released the following statements in response to Tennessee Governor Bill Lee announcing he will not take up an extreme risk law, a life-saving measure that could have potentially prevented the tragedy at the Covenant School in Nashville. The announcement comes just ahead of the 2024 legislative session in Tennessee. 

Following the mass shooting at Covenant School, lawmakers ended their regular session in April without any action on gun violence prevention, despite Republican Governor Lee’s original call to action, prompting a special session. Following the shooting and during the special session in August, Everytown along with Moms Demand Action, and Students Demand Action volunteers, called on leaders to reject efforts to weaken the state’s gun laws and find common ground on policies like an Extreme Risk law. Instead, gun lobby-backed legislators used the special session to call for dangerous legislation, like arming teachers, that would make our children less safe. Thanks to relentless advocacy by gun safety advocates, survivors, and students, lawmakers ultimately rejected legislation to arm teachers

“Governor Lee’s refusal to advocate for an extreme risk law is a disgraceful betrayal of Tennessee communities and their safety,” said Angela Ferrell-Zabala, executive director of Moms Demand Action. “His inaction screams louder than any words, and makes one thing abundantly clear, the Governor values the gun lobby over the lives of Tennesseans. Following the tragic Covenant School shooting last spring, we had expected the governor to recognize the pressing need to pass a basic, common-sense gun safety measure. Instead, his negligence continues to leave people across the state exposed to deadly gun violence.”

“This is a shameful day for Tennessee,” said Shaundelle Brooks, a Fellow with the Everytown Survivor Network and President of the Akilah Dasilva Foundation whose son, Akilah Dasilva, was shot and killed in a mass shooting at a Waffle House in Antioch in 2018. “Governor Lee’s cowardly decision is an insult to survivors, a rejection of expert research, and a failure to his constituency that he is sworn to protect. He’s had countless chances to save our kids’ lives and prevent more parents from experiencing the agony of having their child shot. But unlike him, I won’t stop fighting for my children and for all children who live here.”

“Guns are the leading killer of kids in Tennessee, yet our own Governor is blatantly refusing to take action, putting gun industry profits ahead of our own safety. We don’t have to live this way and shouldn’t have to die this way,” said Jadyn Turner, a volunteer with Students Demand Action and a student at Lincoln Memorial University. “There is a direct path towards a safer Tennessee, and though Governor Lee is choosing not to take it, we will continue to hold him accountable. He better get used to us, because we’re not going anywhere.” 

Just two weeks ago, Nashville suffered another tragedy when Belmont University freshman Jillian Ludwig was shot in the head and killed by a bullet meant for a car across the street. Reports show the shooter was previously charged with shooting others in the past, but the charges were dismissed after the shooter was declared mentally incompetent to stand trial. This once again proves the deadly consequences of legislative inaction – weak gun laws enable easy access to guns by people with a demonstrated history of dangerous behavior.

Tennessee currently has the 12th highest rate of gun deaths in the United States and some of the weakest gun laws in the country. An Extreme Risk law may have prevented the shooting at the Covenant School and saved six lives. Twenty-one states — including Indiana and Florida — have already passed an Extreme Risk law. Guns are the number one killer of kids and teens in the U.S. and in Tennessee.