Tennessee lawmaker 'appalled' Chairman refused testimony from mass-shooting survivors
NASHVILLE, Tenn.--Two survivors of the Las Vegas mass shooting scheduled to speak before a Tennessee House committee on Wednesday were denied the opportunity to speak, appalling the Tennessee lawmaker who invited them here.
Rep. Dwayne Thompson (D-Shelby County) invited Chris Stevens and Kari Kuefler to issue statements before the Civil Justice Committee supporting Rep. Thompson's bill that would ban bump stocks and other accessories that accelerate the rate of fire on semi-automatic weapons.
Thompson says on Wednesday morning he received a call from Committee Chairman Mike Carter (R-Ooltewah) saying he wanted to delay the hearing two to three weeks and move it to the committee's last calendar day.
"The chairman controls the calendar so there wasn't much I could do about it," Rep. Thompson says. "But I asked if they could still testify and the Chairman was reluctant but said he would defer to the committee."
Thompson says he spoke with most of the committee members and they were okay with the testimony from the mass shooting survivors.
Stevens, who tours with Jason Aldean, lives in Houston and traveled to Nashville using his own money so he could speak before the committee. Kuefler, who attended the Route 91 Harvest Festival concert featuring Aldean, also decided she would testify.
"You have to understand many of the survivors are still dealing with PTSD from the shooting. It took a lot to work up the courage to come and speak," Thompson says.
Despite having the okay from most of the committee members, Rep. Thompson says things changed once the hearing started. "Once it started he (Chairman Carter) decided it was his call alone to make the decision if they could speak."
During the hearing, Carter stated Stevens and Kuefler could still submit written testimony or they are "welcome back when the bill comes back." Carter told the committee since the bill had already been moved it would be out of order to hear testimony on a bill which wasn't being considered. "How do we associate your testimony with your bill three weeks from now?" Carter said.
Thompson stated testimony had been allowed in similar situations but Carter couldn't recall any instances and issued the ruling.
"We were appalled," says Thompson. Rep. Bill Beck, Rep. Hardaway, and Thompson then left the hearing room in protest.
Thompson says part of the issue is the courage it took for Stevens and Kuefler to decide they would testify. The other part is they are just like other working class Americans and can't necessarily afford to come back-and-forth on their own dime.
But most of all, Thompson took issue with how things were handled. "I feel it was wrong, disrespectful."
FOX 17 News reached out to Rep. Carter on two occasions for a statement but has not received a response to our messages.