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Governor, lawmakers say Tennessee must protect itself against attacks

Posted at 4:24 PM, Aug 05, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-06 10:48:41-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Two mass shootings occurred over the weekend. They have sparked conversations among Tennessee lawmakers on how to prevent something like this from happening here.

Newschannel 5 caught up with Governor Bill Lee at the National Conference of State Legislatures. He called the events tragic and evil.

He believes these shootings are about mental health and radicalization, and says Tennessee needs to find its own way to protect against this type of attack.

The governor wouldn't say whether or not he would support red flag laws or universal background checks. But he does think cyber security could play a role.

"Many of these folks have made indications online about their intentions or certainly their trouble past and their mental health instability. That's one of the things that I want to look at is ways to intersect that earlier and to see and to target that individual before they have the opportunity to target others," said Gov. Lee.

We also spoke to Representative Mike Stewart who says anyone purchasing an assault rifle should undergo a background check.

"Tennessee needs to adopt universal background checks like I have been pushing for many years. People should start asking hard questions of their legislators. Are they for universal background checks, or are they in the way of this very good policy," said Stewart.

U.S. Representative Steve Cohen released a statement in response to the shooting:

“The horrific killings in Texas and Ohio are yet another grim reminder that people with nefarious motives are getting access to weapons of war and using them on defenseless civilians as they go about their daily lives. Weapons of war have no place in the hands of civilians and background checks for purchasing guns must be thorough. Earlier this year, the House Judiciary Committee, on which I serve as a senior member, held the first hearing on gun violence in eight years. Soon after that, the House passed H.R. 8, the Bipartisan Background Checks Act by a 240-190 vote. If the Senate would take action and the President signed this bill into law, it would begin to save the lives of those like the victims of this weekend’s barbarity.” - Rep. Cohen

Senator Marsha Blackburn also released a statement:

“The mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton were horrific tragedies perpetrated by evil individuals, and I condemn all forms of hate and hateful acts of any kind. The actions of law enforcement officers and first responders in stopping both shooters saved lives and allowed the wounded to get immediate care. We will work with the President to continue addressing this issue in a comprehensive manner by giving law enforcement the tools they need to reduce gun violence, while also respecting the constitutional rights of law abiding citizens. The issue of mental health will also require further examination. We should look into how to expand providing proper treatment and facilities for the severely mentally ill. Last year, Congress passed the Fix NICS Act, which banned the use of bump stocks and strengthened reporting requirements for the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) and the Department of Justice. There is much more work to be done. My deepest sympathy and prayers go out to the victims and those injured.”

Sen. Lamar Alexander said the shootings "can not be ignored."

“Our nation cannot ignore these mass shootings. That is why last year I helped pass a new law to eliminate loopholes in the background check system for gun purchasers. Two years ago, I helped rewrite federal mental health laws to improve the quality and coordination of mental health care, focusing on early intervention. New laws I co-sponsored gave schools more funds to stop school violence and to meet the needs of students with mental health disorders. I am ready to do more, especially on background checks, to identify those who shouldn’t have guns. Today, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell asked that the health and education committee I chair take an immediate look to find additional bipartisan ways to fund states’ efforts to increase school safety and to help Americans with serious mental health problems. But, especially in a nation with a constitutional right to bear arms, new laws from Washington, D.C., alone won’t stop this violence – it will take a change in behavior. Every day our internet democracy displays millions of hateful thoughts. To change behavior, each of us has a responsibility to replace these hateful thoughts with statements that respect the dignity of every individual, regardless of their background.”