NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Assistant House Majority Leader Mark Cochran, R-Englewood, and Senate Speaker Pro Tempore Ferrell Haile, R-Gallatin, today introduced legislation to establish strong penalties for those who threaten mass violence in Tennessee.
House Bill 7016/Senate Bill 7002 would make it a Class E felony to threaten serious bodily injury or death to two or more people. The punishment would increase to a Class D felony if the threat was made against a school, house of worship or government facility; the defendant had a prior conviction for threatening mass violence; or they had taken a substantial step towards carrying out the crime.
“Threatening to harm others is an incredibly serious crime that must be treated accordingly,” Cochran said. “This legislation is the result of months of deliberate efforts to find meaningful solutions that enhance public safety across our state. These changes will allow us to better address dangerous individuals while also ensuring our constitutional rights remain protected.”
In addition to the increased penalties, House Bill 7016/Senate Bill 7002 also include important safeguards to ensure the safety of the public if a defendant is released on bail. The legislation requires a mental health evaluation to be completed prior to a release, and the court may use the results of a behavioral risk assessment along with relevant testimony to determine if a threat exists. Bail could also only be granted by a general sessions, circuit or criminal court judge.
“So much of the conversation about this special session has centered around guns, but inanimate objects are not the problem,” Haile said. “Violent criminals are the problem. This legislation does not go after inanimate objects. Instead, it goes after criminals who intend to do significant harm to a group of other people, regardless of if the violence could be committed with a firearm, vehicle, bomb, or other weapon. Infringing upon the rights of law-abiding citizens will not stop criminals willing to die to take the lives of innocent people. This legislation gives law enforcement more tools to go after murderous individuals explicitly threatening citizens.”
Gov. Bill Lee issued an official proclamation last week calling for a special session of the state legislature to consider several proposals dealing with public safety and mental health.
The 66th Extraordinary Special Session of the Tennessee General Assembly is scheduled to convene Aug. 21 at 4 p.m.