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Thousands at the capitol demand gun control while Republican leaders stay skeptical of a red flag law

Thousands of protesters chanted outside the state capital. Students walked out of school to demand action, and Republican lawmakers still don't plan on gun reform.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — One of the largest protests in recent history centered on renewed calls for Nashville lawmakers to pass tighter restrictions on guns. It's a direct contrast to a string of bills so far this session supported by the Republican majority to loosen gun restrictions.

Surrounded by leading lawmakers Monday, Governor Bill Lee unveiled a new budget plan devoting $200 million additional dollars to improving school security.

"This past week will certainly be remembered as one the most heartbreaking weeks in our states history and the history books will also reflect how Tennessee leaders responded in the wake of those tragedies," Lee said.

The plan must pass both the house and senate and could impact both public and private schools across the state. 

Part of the conversation inside and outside the capitol Monday included a push to create a "red flag" law in Tennessee. Red flag laws typically allow law enforcement officers to confiscate guns from someone deemed a potential danger to themselves or others. Critics called it a gun grab while supporters said it can save lives.

Governor Lee promised new money to increase school security across the state but made no promise or mention of supporting any further restrictions on guns.

In earlier interviews about guns, House Speaker Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville) did mention potential changes coming in the state that lawmakers have considered as a way to prevent shootings.

"What usually does come out of it is things that they have said over the past that have gotten overlooked that people have said in retrospect, 'Oh, red flag,'" Sexton said. 

The speaker pointed to the background of the shooter named in the Nashville school shooting.

"It looked like based on all the messages that had been put out that she was going to kill people that day and she was going to die that day," he said. 

Police reported the suspect killed by officers was under a doctor's care for an undisclosed "emotional disorder." Police said the shooter was in possession of several guns, remarking last week they might have been able to confiscate them before the shooting if the law allowed for it.

"There are things that will come out of this that will allow us to coalesce hopefully together and come up with some common sense things that will help in these situations," Sexton said. 

Meanwhile, protestors at the capitol demanded lawmakers pass a red flag law Monday, while critics said it's a bad idea.

Executive director of the Tennessee Firearms Association John Harris said "red flag laws" go after a gun when lawmakers should instead help the person in trouble. 

"You know, the term red flag, part of the problem with the discussion is it's not well defined exactly what that means," Harris said.  "The huge difference between the red flag concept that the gun control advocate pushes and a true mental health approach which looks at the person as the risk and deals with the person and getting them off the street because if they're detained, they're not going to pick up a knife then and hurt someone else."

If you have any concerns about ongoing legislation 10News has contact information for all elected leaders in East Tennessee here.

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