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TMA Prepares for Special Session of State Legislature

Aug. 8, 2023

On May 8, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee announced his intention to call a special session of the General Assembly on Aug. 21 “to strengthen public safety and preserve constitutional rights.” The announcement came days after the Covenant School shooting in Nashville and a mere two months before a gunman took the life of beloved orthopedic surgeon Dr. Benjamin Mauck at the Campbell Clinic in Collierville, Tenn.

The Tennessee Constitution allows the General Assembly to only address the very specific subject described in the governor’s proclamation during a special session. Legislation introduced outside of the proclamation’s subject matter cannot be considered.

To date, Gov. Lee has not issued a formal call or identified the scope of the special session, but he indicated an intention to introduce his legislative proposal to enact temporary mental health orders of protection for at-risk individuals who pose a risk of committing violence.

Where is TMA on the issues?
TMA would support legislation that increases both post-graduate training spots in psychiatry and funding for affordable beds in psychiatric treatment facilities. While this would not immediately solve any mental health services needs, it is an investment in our state’s preparedness to address the increased mental health needs of our citizenry. 

It is unlikely that those outside the Legislature will be privy to advance special session materials; however, TMA will review all other legislation filed as it becomes available.

TMA’s existing policy on issues surrounding mental health treatment and firearms, which come within the scope of the special session, are:

Mental Health
TMA House of Delegates policy calls for support of legislation allowing for the implementation of mental health protective orders.
TMA voiced support for Gov. Lee’s legislative proposal earlier this year to enact temporary mental health orders of protection for at-risk individuals who pose a risk of committing violence. This public safety effort would significantly speed up the process to keep firearms out of the hands of individuals who present a danger to themselves and others while preserving Second Amendment rights and due process.

Firearm Safety
TMA House of Delegates policy supports:

  • Safe firearm storage, including child access protection laws.
  • Enhanced background checks before firearm purchases. 
  • The regulation of the sale of large capacity firearm magazines.
  • The institution of a statewide gun safety program in schools.
  • The requirement that all new firearm purchasers complete a short video on firearm safety prior to receiving the firearm in person, with exceptions for active military and police officers.

TMA will use this policy as guidance when taking a position on bills introduced during the special legislative session and thereafter. 

In addition to TMA’s advocacy during the special session, TMA will spearhead legislation in 2024 to enact laws to enhance criminal penalties for those who commit acts of violence against physicians. A similar law already exists for first responders and nurses.