COURTS & LEGAL

Tennessee governor signs bill to shield gun firms further against lawsuits

May 15, 2023, 11:33 AM

FILE - Semi-automatic handguns are displayed at shop in New Castle, Pa., March 25, 2020. A U.S. jud...

FILE - Semi-automatic handguns are displayed at shop in New Castle, Pa., March 25, 2020. A U.S. judge's ruling Wednesday, May 11, 2023, striking down a federal law that bans licensed federal firearms dealers from selling handguns to young adults under 21 is the latest example of how a landmark Supreme Court decision is transforming the legal landscape around firearms. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic, File)
Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

(AP Photo/Keith Srakocic, File)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee has signed off on additional protections for gun and ammunition dealers, manufacturers and sellers against lawsuits within a bill that lawmakers passed after a deadly school shooting in March.

The Republican governor quietly signed the legislation Thursday. Its provisions kick in on July 1.

The state Senate gave final passage to the bill in mid-April, just weeks after the March 27 shooting at The Covenant School in Nashville that killed six people, including three 9-year-olds. The House had passed it before the shooting.

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.

Nashville police release bodycam footage of police shooting school attacker

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 bill’s sponsor, Republican Sen. Joey Hensley from Hohenwald, said during a floor debate last month that his legislation doesn’t prevent any other proposal from passing to make changes after the shooting. He said the bill aims to help out businesses in Tennessee’s booming firearms industry.

The Tennessee bill spells out a half-dozen situations in which gun and ammo companies could be held civilly liable in Tennessee state courts, exempting others.

The firearm industry remains largely shielded from liability under federal law. Seventeen states do not have special immunity for the gun industry. Tennessee was already not one of those states before the bill’s approval, according to Everytown for Gun Safety, a gun control advocacy group. In recent years, some states have moved in the opposite direction of Tennessee by rolling back legal protections for gun manufacturers and dealers.

‘There is no universal school safety solution.’ Nashville attack renews debate on how to protect students

Last year, Remington, the company that made the rifle used in the the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Connecticut, settled with the families of those killed in the shooting for $73 million. The families had accused the company of targeting younger, at-risk males in advertising and product placement in violent video games.

And in February, families of those killed and injured in a 2018 Texas high school shooting settled a lawsuit they filed against a Tennessee-based online retailer, Lucky Gunner, that was accused of illegally selling ammunition to the student who authorities say fatally shot 10 people. Some of the settlement specifics in the case in the Texas court system were kept confidential.

The owner of the company, Jordan Mollenhour, sits on the Tennessee State Board of Education. The company was accused of failing to verify Dimitrios Pagourtzis’ age — he was 17, at the time — when he bought more than 100 rounds of ammunition on two occasions before the May 2018 shooting at Santa Fe High School.

KSL 5 TV Live

Courts & Legal

front doors and a plaque...

Alexander Campbell

Three arrested on suspicion of beating, robbing Springville homeowner

Three Utah locals have been arrested, following an investigation into an aggravated robbery in Springville. 

4 days ago

Thacker died after another driver crashed into him as Thacker waited at a stoplight in West Jordan ...

Lauren Steinbrecher

DUI driver sentenced to prison in beloved Toymaker’s death

The family of a beloved volunteer toymaker killed by a DUI driver reacted to the driver’s prison sentence, and explained why they’re hoping a new law will help other families going through the same court process.

4 days ago

Confiscated guns are stored in the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office in February 2015, in Minneapo...

Devan Cole, CNN

Minnesota ban on 18- to 20-year-olds obtaining handgun permits is unconstitutional, federal appeals court says

Minnesota’s ban on 18- to 20-year-olds obtaining a permit to publicly carry a handgun violates the US Constitution, a federal appeals court ruled Tuesday.

4 days ago

Judge Keith Barnes addressing Mia Bailey about her charges....

Garna Mejia, KSL TV, and Daniella Rivera, KSL Investigates

New details emerge about protective order against Mia Bailey, accused of murdering her parents in St. George

KSL's Investigators have obtained exclusive new details on a protective order filed against Mia Bailey, the 28-year-old accused of murdering her parents last month in St. George.

11 days ago

The smoke from the Silver King Fire in Marysvale, Utah in Piute County on July 8, 2024. (KSL TV)...

Dan Rascon

Silver King Fire continues to burn over 10,000 acres and 0% contained

A small southcentral Utah Town is breathing a sigh of relief as the Silver King Fire has slowed down on Monday.

12 days ago

Utah’s 2nd Congressional district debate between Colby Jenkins and Congresswoman Celeste Maloy at...

Bridger Beal-Cvetko, KSL.com

Colby Jenkins files lawsuit against Washington County as congressional primary remains tight

Colby Jenkins' congressional campaign asked the courts to quickly force Washington County to turn over lists of uncured ballots as the margin between him and Rep. Celeste Maloy remains razor thin.

15 days ago

Sponsored Articles

young male technician is repairing a printer at office...

Les Olson

Unraveling the dilemma between leasing and buying office technology

Carefully weigh these pros and cons to make an informed decision that best suits your business growth and day-to-day operation. 

A kitchen in a modern farmhouse....

Lighting Design

A room-by-room lighting guide for your home

Bookmark this room-by-room lighting guide whenever you decide to upgrade your lighting or style a new home.

Photo courtesy of Artists of Ballet West...

Ballet West

The rising demand for ballet tickets: why they’re harder to get

Ballet West’s box office is experiencing demand they’ve never seen before, leaving many interested patrons unable to secure tickets they want.

Electrician repairing ceiling fan with lamps indoors...

Lighting Design

Stay cool this summer with ceiling fans

When used correctly, ceiling fans help circulate cool and warm air. They can also help you save on utilities.

Side view at diverse group of children sitting in row at school classroom and using laptops...

PC Laptops

5 internet safety tips for kids

Read these tips about internet safety for kids so that your children can use this tool for learning and discovery in positive ways.

Women hold card for scanning key card to access Photocopier Security system concept...

Les Olson

Why printer security should be top of mind for your business

Connected printers have vulnerable endpoints that are an easy target for cyber thieves. Protect your business with these tips.

Tennessee governor signs bill to shield gun firms further against lawsuits