Adobe Stock | Inset: Sean Braisted / Flickr

A Democrat in Tennessee has submitted a proposed 15 percent tax on the sale of guns in the state, proposing the revenue would be used by the Tennessee Department of Education to staff school counselors. Representative Bo Mitchell of Nashville filed the bill, HB 2193, criticizing Tennessee Republicans for failing to act to prevent gun violence in the state. “If we don’t solve this problem, we’re going to need a lot more mental health counselors in our schools, either for the school shooting or for the children who go home, and the guns are unsecured at home, and they either shoot themselves or their neighbors’ children. It’s either we act and do something, or we’re going to have to start taxing to pay for the other problem it’s causing,” he said. He also mocked the common “thoughts and prayers” that are shared when shootings occur. “Tongue in cheek, I made it AR-15 percent. I call it the ‘Thoughts and Prayers Tax.’ If we’re going to do nothing else in this state, we’re going to put this taxation into a fund to fund K through 12 mental health counselors for our children.” The AR-15 has often been a source of Democrats’ ire, with many calling it an “assault rifle” and “weapon of war.” Many Democrats have sought to ban the gun outright. Proponents of the gun call it a hunting rifle and note that it does not meet the definition of an assault rifle, as it is not a “firearm capable of selective-fire.”

Mitchell stated he received the idea for the bill from a Republican voter at a town hall meeting who made the suggestion of taxing gun sales. Mitchell recalled responding, “I’ll be happy to file that bill for you.” The bill faces an uphill battle against the Republican super majority in Tennessee and is unlikely to pass. Republicans have been hesitant to move on gun laws, citing concerns for violating the Second Amendment or civil rights. Tennessee Democrats have been especially fervent in pushing for more gun safety laws after Audrey Hale, a woman who identified as a man, shot and killed three adults and three children at the Christian Covenant School last March.

After the shooting, there was a strong push for the passing of “red flag” laws, which would enable family members and friends to alert police about possibly unstable behavior in someone and prohibit those with mental health issues from purchasing and/or owning firearms. Hale, who was killed by police during the attack, left behind several documents, including a manifesto, that were recently released by conservative pundit Steven Crowder after police delayed revealing the manifesto’s contents. In the manifesto, Hale referred to the students at the school as “crackers” and that she hoped to kill many students as possible. To date, it does not appear authorities have corroborated the manifesto’s contents, but Crowder and his team have insisted the contents are real. Hale also suffered from mental health disorders, which Democrats claim red flag laws would have allowed her parents to notify authorities to stop her from legally purchasing the weapons that she used in the attack. Gun rights advocates have claimed the laws contain “flimsy” definitions of mental health concerns and could violate gun owners’ rights.

Mitchell stated his bill would not be needed if Republicans would move forward on other legislation. He currently supports safe storage laws, red flag laws, and assault weapons bans, all of which have floundered in the state legislature. “I want to give my colleagues the benefit of the doubt and [believe] that they want to protect children in this state. We have a severe problem in this state, and we need to act. That’s what we were elected to do. We were elected to solve problems in this state and not ignore them,” he said. “I’ll sponsor that bill if we can get those three things passed. It would solve a lot of our problems.”

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