WilliamsonCountyGOP_Pompeo_2021-12 Marsha Blackburn

Senator Marsha Blackburn addresses attendees at a Williamson County GOP event on August 7, 2021, featuring guest speaker former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. 

While the Senate passed a historic, bipartisan gun control bill Thursday night, Senator Marsha Blackburn was not among the Republicans to support it. 

Blackburn voted against passage of the "Bipartisan Safer Communities Act," a piece of gun control legislation that incentivizes for states to pass "red flag" laws, closes of the long-controversial "boyfriend loophole" that allows some domestic abusers to purchase firearms, pours resources into federal mental health efforts and strengthens background checks for those under the age of 21 purchasing firearms, among other essential steps. 

This is despite a last-minute push from Blackburn for an amendment that would address adding veterans and former law enforcement officials as school safety officers in an attempt to better fortify schools in the event of any threat. 

"I’m a no-vote on the gun control bill that would erode Americans’ constitutional right to bear arms," Blackburn said, reaffirming her staunch belief in no legislation that would impede gun ownership. 

"Enhanced funding for school security & mental health treatment is a good thing — but it’s being combined with giving the left a foothold to limit the 2nd Amendment. I voted against the gun control bill because Americans' constitutional right to keep & bear arms is not negotiable." 

Fellow Tennessee senator Bill Hagerty was also a "no" vote on the bill in all steps of the process, though he has not released a statement on his decision. 

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) signaled Thursday night the Democrat-controlled House will take up a vote on the measure Friday morning, clearing its path to make it to President Joe Biden's desk to become law. It is the most significant gun control legislation to pass through Congress in decades and bucks some pessimism that a bipartisan solution could be found. 

Though, some gun control advocates wanted more out of the legislation. Calls for an assault weapons ban have been at the top of the list for those wanting a more comprehensive bill. 

The bill's Senate approval also comes on a day where the Supreme Court decided 6-3 to expand gun rights in wake of a New York-based open carry limitation bill it deemed unconstitutional. 

Blackburn stays in lockstep with NRA's position

The senator from Brentwood originally had issues with the timing of Tuesday's first vote on advancing the bill and sided with the National Rifle Association's stance that any sort of gun control legislation would infringe on the Second Amendment.

"The Second Amendment is not negotiable," Blackburn told Fox News after her vote against advancing the bill. "It is not a suggestion. It is a right. And I'm not going to support anything that is going to infringe on a law-abiding citizen's Second Amendment rights." 

The bill foregoes any sort of gun-buying restrictions on anyone not either already having committed a felon or considered at-risk by family members, law enforcement officials or members of the community. 

In the end, Blackburn stuck to her prior statements and sided with the NRA's position on the bill. The senator has reportedly received $1.3 million in contributions from the gun rights organization, including $619,000 in funding against opponents. She ranks 14th overall in Congress for amount of money received from the controversial organization, per Memphis-based outlet WREG.  

Amendment focused on heightened protection in schools 

Ahead of Thursday night's vote, Blackburn lobbied for an amendment that would directly address additional security measures for school systems. 

"I’ve introduced an amendment to the gun control package to allow for the training and hiring of veterans and former law enforcement officials to serve as school safety officers," Blackburn said in a statement Thursday afternoon. 

Hers is a common solution presented by conservative colleagues, one that would focus more on strengthening the security in schools rather than on gun legislation by recruiting veterans and former law enforcement officials to serve as school safety officers. 

Advocates for this solution say it would put more trained personnel in schools who would better be able to respond to an active shooter situation in part due to potential combat experience. 

Military veterans have spoken up across the country with a willingness to protect schools and attempt to prevent them from being targeted by would-be shooters. 

Retired Marine Jerry Ratteree told Lexington, Kentucky, station Fox56 that he feels there would be enough manpower and will to staff schools and help protect them. 

"There’s roughly about 700-750-thousand on inactive reserve right now," he claimed. "And I believe there’s 131,000 K-12 schools in this country, so you have more than enough personnel available, and you wouldn’t be affecting our combat readiness.

“They could sign for a gun at a local law enforcement office like they would at an armory on base. Then that’s one layer of deterrent to stop these shootings." 

Blackburn's Senate colleague Lindsey Graham (R-SC) has previously supported the idea. 

"We have hundreds of thousands of well-trained former military members who could bring a lot to the table in terms of school security," Graham said in a statement. "ROTC instructors with firearms training should be allowed to possess weapons to enhance school security. I will be working to create a certification process that allows former military members to go through school security training and become available to school districts throughout the country.

"It is time to mobilize our retired and former service members who are willing to help secure our schools. Our schools are soft targets. They contain our most valuable possession – our children, the future of our country – and must be protected." 

Critics point out potential gaps in policy 

Critics of the solution push against the idea of more armed personnel in schools that could create more problems than solutions when managing everyday problems with students. An opinion piece in the military-focused publication Task & Purpose from retired Marine Carl Forsling mentions some of the hurdles that would present themselves if this route is taken. 

"Unlike in the movies, most servicemembers are not weapons or close quarters battle experts, which is what this type of mission would really entail," Forsling writes. "Most sailors and airmen get only very basic weapons training when they join the military. Unless they are going into special operations, security forces, or similar fields, they are unlikely to train much with small arms for the rest of their careers.

"Soldiers and Marines get a more robust introduction to weapons fundamentals, but unless they are in the infantry, or to a lesser degree the other ground combat arms, the amount of tactical shooting they do is generally fairly limited, focused on annual weapons qualification. For perspective, only about 15% of soldiers and 20% of Marines are infantry." 

Forsling went on to discuss the specification of combat veterans, whose number grows slimmer by the day, per his research. 

"And if you really want combat veterans, in particular, things get trickier still," Forsling continues. "Only half of Post-9/11 veterans have any combat experience according to a Pew Research poll. And that poll defined 'combat experience' very loosely. So, if you want a trained combat shooter with real-world experience, that intersection in the Venn diagram gets smaller very quickly. With Afghanistan and Iraq going further into the rearview mirror every day, combat vets still proficient in battle skills will only get rarer."

Forsling also brings up the issue with the number of schools that would need staffing, as well as the nature of the work itself not being appealing to professionals in the field. 

"The armed veterans proposal isn’t a serious idea. Unserious ideas are okay in other contexts, but this is a serious problem that calls for actual policy solutions, not memes," Forslind adds. "That we are even discussing it shows how hard the real potential solutions to the problem — gun policy, red flag laws and devoting real resources for mental health interventions — really are. Rather than promote a fantasy solution that just distracts from the hard choices that are really needed, let’s work on realistic solutions. Or if not, we should at least be honest about how much, or rather how little, we actually care about protecting children."

Real-world implications have influenced bill's assembly 

The response from the Uvalde Police Department in regard to the May shooting at an elementary school has received widespread criticism, with Texas safety chief Steve McGraw calling the actions from law enforcement that day an "abject failure." 

Many have become horrified at the details that continue to emerge about the law enforcement response to the shooting, including the timeline for when the officers onsite engaged with the shooter. 

Blackburn's failed amendment came after Thursday's Supreme Court decision against a New York law that restricted some forms of open carry in the state. The court's 6-3 ruling would strengthen the right to bear arms in self-defense in public spaces. 

The Tennessee senator spoke in praise of the decision after it was announced. 

"SCOTUS’ ruling on New York’s restrictive concealed carry regulations is a significant win for the Second Amendment," Blackburn said in a statement. "It’s simple: law-abiding Americans have a right to keep and bear arms."