Tennessee governor’s push for gun laws fails as lawmakers scuffle

By Brad Brooks

(Reuters) – A special legislative session in Tennessee called by the state’s Republican governor in response to a deadly school shooting ended on Tuesday with no progress on gun safety laws, capped by a brief scuffle between opposing lawmakers.

Governor Bill Lee, in the special session which opened on Aug. 21, asked lawmakers to consider a “red flag” law and a number of other public safety measures he pitched in the wake of the murder of three children and three staff members at The Covenant School in March in Nashville.

But fellow Republicans, who hold a supermajority in the state legislature, would not budge on their refusal to pass any laws they deem as threats to citizens’ right to own guns under the U.S. Constitution.

Two Democratic lawmakers who had reclaimed their seats after being expelled over a protest from the House of Representatives floor against gun violence in April confronted House Speaker Cameron Sexton as Republicans voted to end the special session on Tuesday.

A brief scuffle between the two Democrats, Representatives Justin Jones and Justin Pearson, and the Republican speaker broke out, with shoves exchanged before other members stepped in to separate them.

Jones and Pearson, both of whom are Black members of the predominantly white House, have been outspoken proponents of new gun laws to help ease violence in the urban areas they represent.

After being expelled by Republicans from their seats in April, Jones and Pearson won back their seats in a special election.

Lawmakers did set aside extra funds for existing safety programs, prompting Lee, the governor, to say that “our state is safer today as a result of this session.”

That sentiment was not shared by Sarah Shoop Neuman, the parent of a Covenant student who lobbied lawmakers for new gun laws. After the session ended, she told reporters it was difficult for her to comprehend that children were murdered at school, yet lawmakers “took no meaningful action.”

(Reporting by Brad Brooks in Longmont, Colorado; Editing by Donna Bryson and Leslie Adler)

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