Governor Bill Lee has enacted legislation that grants further legal safeguards to firearm and ammunition suppliers, including retailers and manufacturers. This law was officially signed by the Republican governor last Thursday and is set to be effective from the 1st of July.
Senate Republicans endorsed House Bill 1189 on April 18, in the wake of a tragic shooting at The Covenant School in Nashville which claimed the lives of three children, all aged 9, and three adults. Notably, the House had given its approval to this legislation three weeks prior to this incident, on March 6.
According to AP News:
Lee’s choice to sign the bill comes as he keeps pushing for the same Republican lawmakers, who hold supermajorities in the House and Senate, to pass a proposal that aims to keep guns away from people who could harm themselves or others. Lee plans to call lawmakers back into an August special session that aims “to strengthen public safety and preserve constitutional rights” after they adjourned last month without taking up his “temporary mental health order of protection” proposal. His office hasn’t released the parameters of what version of that proposal, or others, will be considered in the session yet.
The expansion of civil immunity for gun companies was hardly in doubt after lawmakers passed it. Lee has never issued a veto, which lawmakers would have the numbers to override. However, he occasionally has allowed bills to take effect without his signature to signal his concerns or disapproval of a policy.
Democratic lawmakers have blasted the move to prioritize legal protections to the gun industry in the wake of the shooting. Three Senate Republicans voted against the legislation, which came before them in the middle of weeks of public pressure, protests and marches to pass gun control reforms. Only Democrats opposed the bill in the House vote before the shooting.
“With regards to the law, the GOP supermajority is more focused on protecting firearms and manufacturers and dealers than protecting our children and communities,” Rep. John Ray Clemmons, the House Democratic caucus chairman from Nashville, said in an interview Monday.
The law doesn’t completely protect gun companies from lawsuits and there is a list of exceptions which allows suits against them. Tennessee also has no power over federal laws regarding the firearm industry.