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Tennessee Business Leaders Urge General Assembly: Enact Gov. Lee’s Order of Protection Proposal

Updated: Apr 24, 2023

Our state’s business leaders have shared the shock, grief and anger of our fellow Tennesseans in the wake of the Covenant School and other recent mass shootings. Public safety is a matter of grave concern for our business community, especially because many of these tragic crimes have victimized innocent people within workplaces. As business operators, we have a direct interest in ensuring safe environments for our employees and customers.

Tennesseans deserve to be effectively protected against violence perpetrated in workplaces and places of public accommodation by individuals who do not possess the mental capacity to make lawful, safe decisions about their use of firearms. Recent tragedies have made clear that existing state laws and protections relating to firearms fall terribly short of equipping our government to execute one of its primary duties under Article 1, Section 1 of the Constitution of Tennessee – to ensure the safety of the people.

Our business community applauds Gov. Bill Lee's call for a special session on public safety and joins him in calling on the 113th General Assembly to expand Tennessee’s current Order of Protection law to create a temporary mental health order of protection. We believe that such orders will lawfully and effectively protect Tennesseans from individuals for whom possessing a firearm or ammunition poses a current and ongoing substantial likelihood of serious harm -- to themselves and to innocent others – due to their mental illness, serious behavioral condition or serious emotional disturbance.

Tennessee’s corporate citizens have chosen to build our businesses in this state in part because its laws are fair and just. We therefore appreciate the careful approach Governor Lee’s proposal takes to safeguarding the due process rights of the individuals who would be affected by it. The orders created by his legislation could be issued only in response to a sworn petition by a law enforcement officer or agency – and only after respondents receive a mental health evaluation, representation by an attorney, and a court hearing. Clear and convincing evidence of a serious mental health condition, a threat of serious harm posed by possessing firearms or ammunition and lack of a reasonable alternative to suspending possession would all be required.

The temporary mental health order of protection proposed by Governor Lee directly supports the safety of Tennessee’s business operators, our employees and our customers. We believe it is properly temporary, situational and limited in scope, and effectively safeguards the due process and other constitutional rights of affected individuals. And we believe that adopting this limited, sensible and lawful expansion of public safety protections will also reinforce Tennesseans’ confidence in the democratic processes in which they’ve placed their trust.

Governor Lee has responded to Tennesseans’ pleas for public safety by crafting a solution that meets an urgent challenge at a critical moment, the Tennessee way – guided by our shared values and ethical norms, built on rational legal precedent, and faithful to our Tennessee and U.S. Constitutions. The Tennessee Business Roundtable urges the 113th General Assembly to protect Tennesseans by enacting Governor Lee's proposal creating temporary mental health orders of protection.

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