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Lawmakers debate school safety priorities ahead of looming special session | #schoolsaftey

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WSMV) – While Governor Bill Lee has not issued his formal call for a special session, it is expected to begin on August 21.

When he does make that formal announcement, he’s also expected to lay out the specific intention of the session.

In the meantime, there is a lot of debate surrounding what some people hope to see and what lawmakers actually expect to happen. It will follow months of protests related to gun violence at the Tennessee State Capitol.

“You should not need thousands of students outside of the Capitol for legislators to realize that, oh, there is a problem,” Vanderbilt junior Zack Maaieh said.

Maaieh was among the many protestors in the spring. He said he believes stricter gun laws would help keep violence out of schools.

With the special session ahead, activists said they hope to see an extreme risk protection order or red flag law. An ERPO would allow law enforcement to remove firearms from someone in crisis. Some would also like to see increased requirements for storing guns and legislation to strengthen the background check system.

“We will probably pass a watered-down version of one of those,” Rep. Bob Freeman, a Democrat from Nashville, said.

Rep. Freeman said during summer talks, lawmakers on both sides have shared similar safety concerns. However, some Republicans told WSMV 4 that certain restrictions likely are not up for consideration. “I don’t believe there will be any legislation in the special session that will be in the vein of a red flag type law,” Rep. Johnny Garrett of Goodlettsville said.

Rep. Garrett, a Republican, said the focus needs to be more on mental health resources than guns. The conflicting priorities are frustrating for Freeman who represents the district The Covenant School is in.

“I am angry, and I am disappointed, and I am sad,” Freeman said. “These were my friends that were affected by this. These were people who went to my church. I have seen the pain firsthand, and to have my colleagues in the legislature walk up and say there is nothing we can do, is kind of a defeatist mentality.”

Meanwhile, Covenant parents, staff and survivors gather at the Capitol every morning. They pray for each legislator by name to “enact effective laws.” WSMV4 asked Garrett if he believes Democrats and Republicans will be able to find some common ground to do that.

“I hope so,” Garrett said.

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