The Tennessee House passed a bill mandating death or life imprisonment without parole for the first degree murder of law enforcement and first responders. The bill would elevate the intentional targeting and murdering of first responders to an act of terrorism. It passed without opposition, 88 to 0.
Two amendments moved to strengthen the language of the bill. One amendment noted that defendants who receive life sentence can’t be eligible for parole consideration until they’ve served 51 years. The other amendment added to the definitions of terrorism to offer further protections to law enforcement and first responders. Both amendments were adopted.
State Representative Ron Gant (R-Rossville) introduced the bill. During the third and final consideration of the bill, Gant explained that this bill represented a zero-tolerance stance on attacks against law enforcement and first responders.
“We’ve seen an increase in disturbing attacks on first responders and law enforcement who have dedicated their lives to doing difficult, dangerous, and often thankless job[s] to make our communities safer,” stated Gant. “Once signed into law, House Bill 511 will be the nation’s strongest legislation protecting first responders.”
In a statement to The Tennessee Star, Gant expressed confidence that the bill would get positive reception in the Senate.
“Today, we sent a strong message of support to first responders across Tennessee with the unanimous passage of House Bill 511. This legislation ensures that someone who murders a first responder with targeted intent for the job they do will be charged and punished as a terrorist for their crime,” stated Gant. “I’m very optimistic it will have the same bipartisan support in the Senate and once signed into law, it will provide some of the strongest protections for first responders in the nation.”
As reported previously by The Star, this bill was accompanied by another, similar bill sponsored by Gant. The other bill sought to allow life without parole sentencing for those who attempt first degree murder against law enforcement or first responders. That bill passed as well without any objection.
The Senate must now decide whether to advance the bill through committee.
– – –