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Lee reviewing policy possibilities after mass shootings

August 5, 2019

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee said Monday that his administration is looking at several policy options to increase public safety after two mass shootings over the weekend.

However, the Republican declined to specify which policy proposal aimed at addressing gun violence he would push while working with a GOP-controlled Statehouse, which has been resistant to adopt gun control measures over the years.

“We want to look at all options,” Lee told reporters in Nashville. “It’s early for us to talk about which direction we want to go. We want to take action.”

When pressed by reporters, Lee said the direction of his administration had not changed in the wake of the recent shootings that took 31 lives. In El Paso, Texas, 22 people were killed in a shooting at a packed shopping center, and nine died in an unrelated shooting in a nightclub district in Dayton, Ohio.

Lee said it was his responsibility as governor to pursue policy that mitigates hatred in Tennessee, but again offered no specifics on how to do so.

“More than just talking about it. It’s pursuing policy that’ll mitigate that,” Lee said. “Protecting rights of people’s ability to speak freely, but we’ve learned in this country how to delineate between how to speak freely and being a threat to society. We can lead in that.”

Last year, The Associated Press reviewed the fate of all firearms-related legislation that were pitched in Statehouses across the country and found a mixed record. While some gun-control measures were passed across the country, it was not a year of massive changes sought by advocates as many states returned to familiar partisan politics.

In Tennessee, as in many other states, lawmakers scrambled to react in response to the 2018 shooting at a Florida high school that left 17 dead. Several months later, a shooting that killed four people at a Nashville Waffle House loomed over the final days of the session for the gun-friendly Legislature.

Eventually, lawmakers approved a bipartisan bill that would let school districts pay off-duty law enforcement officers to serve as armed school officers during school hours or school-sponsored events, but they couldn’t be used to replace school resource officers. But lawmakers spiked a bill to raise the age limit to 21 from 18 to buy semi-automatic weapons.

This year, Lee enacted legislation that would offer new concealed carry-only handgun permits that don’t require training that involves actually firing a weapon.

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