Brent Leatherwood, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), is urging Tennessee lawmakers to pass recent gun-reform proposals made by Gov. Bill Lee. In a three-page letter to the lieutenant governor and “every Member of the Legislature,” Leatherwood asked state leaders to “take steps now to ensure no school in Tennessee ever has to endure our nightmare again.”
Earlier this month, Leatherwood revealed that his three children attend The Covenant School in Nashville, where three 9-year-old students and three staff members were shot and killed on March 27. His letter referenced his experiences as a father and as the former executive director of Tennessee’s Republican Party. Leatherwood also referenced Scripture and “the mission set forth for the state by our Creator.”
Brent Leatherwood: Gun Proposal ‘Values Life’ & ‘Restrains Evil’
After the mass shooting in Nashville, Gov. Lee called for stricter gun laws, including an “extreme risk protection order” (ERPO), also known as a red-flag law. The controversial regulation permits courts to temporarily block someone from possessing guns if they’re considered dangerous to themselves or others. Tennessee legislators also are considering a budget that would provide money for every public school in the state to have an armed Student Resource Officer.
In his letter, Brent Leatherwood called the ERPO “a sensible proposal” that “values life” and “restrains evil.” It helps people who are experiencing “distress” or “mental anguish,” he added. “By empowering families to signal a loved one is in need,” Leatherwood told legislators, “you are giving them the ability to partner with law enforcement to provide direct and focused attention where and when it is needed for the safety of the individual and the broader community.”
The ERLC, the public policy arm of the SBC, usually focuses on religious liberty and family issues. But in the wake of recent mass shootings, the conservative denomination (based in Nashville) has joined other groups in pressing politicians to act. A 2018 SBC resolution prayerfully encouraged “preventative measures” against gun violence. In 2022, the convention reaffirmed that resolution, calling for “concrete steps toward solutions.”
Brent Leatherwood: Despite Challenges, Lawmakers Must Act
In his letter, Leatherwood acknowledged common objections to gun-control legislation. (Some opponents call it a plan to confiscate citizens’ firearms.) “Policy-making is never easy,” he wrote, before detailing the merits of Gov. Lee’s proposal.
One stumbling block could be time, with Tennessee legislators trying to conclude the current session. “Little credence should be given to that,” Leatherwood argued. Instead, the ERLC president reminded lawmakers that voters “have placed their trust in you to guide and steward our state, particularly in times of tragedy.”
Christians, Leatherwood wrote, “believe government is an institution ordained by God and given certain responsibilities to ensure an orderly society by protecting the lives and liberties of its citizens, using its authority to be a ‘terror’ to the ‘bad conduct’ of wrongdoers (Rom. 13:3).” The fact that “we live in a world tainted by terrible acts and deed” is “never an excuse for inaction,” he added.