TENNESSEE’S GOVERNOR ISSUES PRESS RELEASE IN RESPONSE TO JULY 16 CHATTANOOGA TERRORIST ATTACK
Half-step solution or a mere illusion
Tennessee’s governor issued a press release on July 22 finally outlining the governor’s response to the July 16 terrorist attack in Chattanooga.
First, the governor ordered the Tennessee National Guard to move its “storefront recruiting locations to local National Guard armories….” That is, the military facilities are being moved to the armories.
Second, members of the military who apply for civilian handgun permits under Tennessee law are going to be put ahead of civilians for processing.
The governor’s press release says nothing about arming the Tennessee military facilities to repel future terrorist attacks on those facilities. It does not indicate any plans to prepare the Tennessee military to respond to possible terrorist attacks at non-military civilian targets.
The press release says nothing about arming the members of the military so that they are able to defend themselves if they are stationed in areas outside of the armories.
The press release says nothing about immediate steps to enable citizens in possible terrorist targets such as schools, malls, movie theaters, hospitals, office buildings, public buildings, recreational facilities, civic centers, parks, etc., to more effectively be capable of defending themselves. Nothing is said about eliminating any gun free zones.
Last week, the Tennessee Firearms Association hoped for decisive action from this state’s leaders just as governors in other states have responded swiftly to the attack in Tennessee. Instead, Tennessee’s governor announced only that he would be reviewing the situation.
While governor’s in other states took action, there was hope that the Tennessee governor’s review would result in decisive steps to i) eliminate all gun free zones in Tennessee and ii) move immediately toward passage of constitutional carry for everyone. The TFA was disappointed but not surprised when it reviewed the Tennessee governor’s July 22 press release.
What options did the Tennessee governor have? There are many but here are just a few to consider because they are the types of actions other governors have implemented.
Start with the fact that the governor is the commander-in-chief. The Tennessee Constitution, Article III, Section 5, states that the governor “shall be commander-in-chief of the Army and Navy of this state, and of the Militia, except when they shall be called into the service of the United States.” Thus, the governor has the constitutional responsibility to lead the entire military forces of the state of Tennessee.
In addition, under Tennessee law the governor – not the president – is the commander-in-chief of the Tennessee National Guard “except when they shall have been called into the service of the United States.” (TCA § 58-1-105). The governor has authority to issue orders regarding all of the state’s military forces.
The governor also has authority under appropriate circumstances, which include a potential terrorist attack, “to order into the active service of the state, for such period, to such extent and in such manner as the governor may deem necessary, all or any part of the national guard or the Tennessee state guard, …” (TCA § 58-1-106).
The governor has broad emergency power in his capacity as commander-in-chief including authority over the Tennessee National Guard. The “governor is responsible for addressing the dangers presented to this state and its people by emergencies.” “During the continuance of a state emergency, the governor is commander in chief of the Tennessee national guard and of all other forces available for emergency duty.” (TCA § 58-2-107).
So, what options did the Tennessee governor have on July 16 as the terrorist attack materialized?
– He could have issued executive orders to immediately arm or even activate the Tennessee National Guard and even the Tennessee State Guard, both of which fall under his constitutional responsibilities as the commander-in-chief. He could have directed that not only Tennessee military forces and facilities be armed for their own defense but also that they also be readied in the event that one or more terrorist attacks developed directed toward non-military targets. Certainly, all he had to do was follow the lead of other governors.
– He could have immediately taken command, if he does not already have it, of Tennessee Highway Patrol officers and issued appropriate emergency orders to them.
– He could have immediately taken command, under his emergency powers, of local law enforcement in any county and issued appropriate emergency orders to them.
– He could have ordered that all public properties in the state that are “gun free zones” be immediately abolished so that civilians defend themselves if necessary.
– He could have assigned additional staffing to the Tennessee Department of Safety to accelerate the issuance of handgun permits to all Tennesseans – not the military.
– He could have called a special session of the legislature to repeal statutory gun free zones and to even enact constitutional carry (8 other states are constitutional carry) or permitless open carry of firearms (approximately 30 states have permitless open carry).
With this broad range of options, Tennessee’s governor on July 22, 2015, did nothing more than issue a press release that sounds like has done something to respond to a potential emergency. A review of the press release reflects that the governor’s announced plan is nothing more than a cheap magician’s misdirection to give the people of the state of Tennessee the misleading impression that he has finally joined the other governors and taken action. The question is did he?
His press release does little more than advise potential terrorists that he has ordered the withdrawal of the Tennessee National Guard to the armories and that he will be awaiting directions from federal officials on what to do next. Sadly, but perhaps predictably, the governor has done nothing to eliminate gun free zones for civilians. He has done nothing to reduce or eliminate the infringements on our fundamental right to carry firearms for self-defense.