TOP PHOTO: State Rep. Dennis Powers speaks at the January South Campbell County Rotary Club luncheon and meeting.

JACKSBORO, TN (SPECIAL TO WLAF) – Like other news outlets across Tennessee, WLAF News received an email on Wednesday from Blount County State Representative Bryan Richey. In it, Richey encourages Tennessee Republican lawmakers to sign his proposal to abandon Governor Bill Lee’s special session set for August. State Representative Dennis Powers tells WLAF News that he will not be signing the letter. Below is Richey’s letter and Powers’ full response.

Open letter to be signed by TN Republican lawmakers from Rep. Richey:

Governor, on behalf of myself and my colleagues listed below, we urge you to abandon the special session you have proposed for August 21, in response to The Covenant School tragedy, because the General Assembly can further consider and discuss legitimate measures to improve public safety when the legislature reconvenes in January 2024. Summoning legislators to Nashville to enact an unconstitutional “red flag” law will not, as you suggest, “strengthen public safety and preserve constitutional rights.” To the contrary, the General Assembly adamantly opposes—and has refused to enact–measures that violate Tennesseans’ Second Amendment rights, whether styled “order of protection” legislation or any other euphemism.

Out of respect for the Second Amendment and Art. I, Section 26 of the Tennessee Constitution, the General Assembly has declined to adopt measures that would allow the confiscation of lawful firearms from citizens without due process. Such legislation would be blatantly unconstitutional under the controlling Supreme Court precedent New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen (2022). We will not violate our oath to uphold the Constitution for political expediency or to curry favor with special interests. At the same time, we have supported your initiatives to enhance the security of Tennessee’s schools, to deter future incidents like the horror that occurred at Covenant on March 27, 2023.

As you know, the 113th General Assembly adjourned its 2023 session without passing your proposed “red flag” law, and House Republicans have emphatically expressed their opposition to such measures in the future. Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson has flatly stated that “the Tennessee General Assembly will not pass any red flag law, period.” Accordingly, your proposed special session, apparently calculated to pressure legislators to pass such a law, strikes us as an expensive, disruptive, futile, and counter-productive publicity stunt. The Covenant tragedy would not have been averted by a “red flag” law in any event. Your proposed special session is a solution in search of a problem.

We can strengthen our criminal penalties and protect our people at any time. It does not require a special session—a session that will be a political event to put pressure on conservative Republicans to grow government and ignore the will of their constituents in service to the national woke mob that will descend on the Capitol. Press reports indicate that left-wing activists are planning to use the proposed special session to stage disruptive protests that will make the “Tennessee Three” circus look like a dress rehearsal. Heavy security will be necessary to protect legislators from unruly agitators. Why would you want to provide a platform for such political theatre?

It is true that the Governor has the constitutional prerogative to call a special session. It is in our view wholly inappropriate to do so when the legislature, which has a supermajority of Members of the same political party as the Governor, has voted to adjourn. There is no emergency, declared or otherwise, that justifies calling us back to work in August. The reason is a series of policy proposals that we, as a legislative body, deliberately—and prudently–chose to reject this session. If interparty comity is being put aside to pressure fellow Republicans to embrace gun control measures, we still have a remaining duty to demand respect for the separation of powers. The Governor has already proposed and we have already disposed. Hopefully, in January, we can continue our work together to make Tennessee safe, prosperous, and free.

Full response to Rep. Richey’s request from Rep. Powers:

“While I agree we should not have a special session in August, the letter from my colleague uses terms that I would not use had I constructed the letter. Terms such as “publicity stunt” does not show respect to our Governor and I do not think he would ever call a special session for a so-called “publicity stunt.”

I do agree we should wait until we start Session next year to discuss his proposal because we will have groups from all over the country protesting and rioting at the Capitol in August.

I also do not support “red flag laws,” but the Governor’s bill is more aligned with an ERPO (Extreme Risk Protection Order) as enacted in Florida. In the ERPO proposed, there is no ex parte’ hearing (where the party is not present), but any gun confiscation is a no-starter for me and many others because you are taking away the 2nd Amendment rights of others in the household. Also, the person in question can buy guns from a neighbor, friend, on the black market or steal them as a mass killer did in Florida.

We worked before our session ended this year to pay for mental health treatments for those at risk, make schools more secure, pay for at least one armed SRO in each school, provide a DHS agent for each county to coordinate safety in schools and provided no-strings attached grants to private schools if they want to hire an SRO.

We have done our job and no special session is needed and if there is legislation to be considered, we can certainly do that through the committee process when we return.

I will not be signing the letter written by my colleague because it is not written with all the facts and the respect that is due our executive branch.” (WLAF NEWS PUBLISHED – 05/25/2023-6AM)

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