A bill that further shields gun and ammo suppliers from lawsuits was enacted by Republican lawmakers in Tennessee. This action follows a fatal shooting at a Christian school in Nashville that left six people dead, including three 9-year-old children. The bill is sent to Republican Governor Bill Lee by the Senate’s 19-9 vote, over Democratic lawmakers’ objections. The Lee administration is still working to gain support from his party’s legislators in order to approve legislation that aims to keep firearms out of the hands of dangerous individuals. This proposal’s future is still up in the air.
Students, parents, and other activists are putting pressure on lawmakers to pass legislation addressing gun control measures. A civil liability bill was passed before a demonstration in favour of gun control that involved creating a human chain from Nashville to the Capitol. Demonstrators lined up along a three-mile route from the Vanderbilt University children’s hospital to the state Capitol while carrying posters that read, “I’m A Voice for Gun Safety.”
The timing of the bill’s passage was attacked by Democratic Senator London Lamar of Memphis, calling it “disrespectful” to the current demonstrations for stricter gun control regulations. Lamar pleaded with lawmakers not to approve the measure, arguing that safeguarding gun manufacturers should not come above the safety of the public.
Senator Joey Hensley of Hohenwald, the bill’s sponsor, said that this legislation does not exclude additional calls for stricter gun laws. The Tennessee bill specifies a number of circumstances under which gun and ammunition manufacturers could be subject to civil lawsuits in Tennessee state courts, while excluding others from liability. Senator Art Swann of Maryville, one of the three Republican senators who voted against the measure, claimed that “gun-makers have encouraged the environment we’ve got right now.”
Under federal law, the firearms industry is largely protected from liability; however, Tennessee is one of only 17 states without a similar exemption. The Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Connecticut in 2012 was committed with a rifle built by Remington, which this year reached a $73 million settlement with the families of the victims. The business was charged with using product placement in violent video games and younger, at-risk guys for promotional purposes. Families of those murdered and hurt in a Texas high school shooting in 2018 reached a settlement with Lucky Gunner, a Tennessee-based internet merchant, in February of this year over allegations that Lucky Gunner sold the deadly shooter illegal ammunition.
Tennessee Republicans made the decision to provide the gun industry more protection from legal action in the face of protests and calls from some lawmakers and individuals to give safety measures priority.