Gov. Bill Haslam said the shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut last week that left 27 people dead made his stomach turn, but he doesn’t see “a big need to change things” in Tennessee’s gun laws.
The massacre killed mostly children, sparking a national conversation about gun laws and resources for mental health. Haslam said he still expects conversation about a controversial guns-in-parking-lots legislation come next year.
“That’s not the first horrific incident we’ve had in America, and there’s a recent poll in Tennessee that showed most people would be in favor of letting employees keep their weapons locked in cars on business property. So, I don’t know yet how that would change America’s minds,” he told reporters Monday on Capitol Hill.
Gun advocates railed on Republicans last year for blocking legislation that would allow gun owners to commute with their weapons to work and legally stow them in their vehicle in their employer’s parking lot. Lawmakers have promised to revisit this year after gun advocates targeted a high-ranking GOP leader and helped get her voted out of office.
The governor said he thinks addressing mental health issues is more proactive, but declined to say whether he is more inclined to increase the budget for the state Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services following the murders.
“When people come in with that intent, it’s hard to stop them regardless of what the laws are, and so I think that addressing the mental health issues up front will be key, is key,” he said.
Haslam is now mapping out a state budget plan. He said the agency has already asked for increased funding but declined to say whether the department’s budget will grow this year.