TN leaders sound off on mental health laws after Belmont student shot; allude to changes coming

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Jillian Ludwig died Thursday.

The 18-year-old Belmont student was shot while walking in a Nashville park Tuesday afternoon.

The suspect, Shaquille Taylor, has a criminal history, having been previously arrested for aggravated assault after allegedly shooting at a car with a woman and two children inside.

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However, three doctors said earlier this year he was unfit to stand trial and he didn’t meet involuntary commit requirements, so he walked free.

“Feels unacceptable,” Gov. Bill Lee (R-Tennessee) said. “It’s the reason why we ought to continue to press hard on public safety.”

The situation has renewed calls to change Tennessee’s mental health laws.

“We’re going to look through that. I don’t think that’s right. If you’re incompetent, you should have further evaluations,” House Speaker Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville) said. “We thought there was a statute on the books that should have required that.”

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The concept is one that nearly got passed at a special session earlier this year before the Senate decided it wouldn’t pass more than a handful of bills , protesting Lee calling the special session in the first place.

“What’s frustrating is you had a guy who’s been in the criminal system now since, I think, about 2015,” Sexton said. “We don’t even know what he did as a juvenile because that’s wiped away.”

Democrats have pointed to loose gun and open carry laws as a clear symptom of this issue.

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“We got rid of the permitting laws and allowed open carry,” Sen. Jeff Yarbro (D-Nashville) said. “Maybe this got reported to the national background check system, but it’s very easy for anyone to work around that background system.”

It was a notion Sexton scoffed at.

“They’re going to blame it on anything other than the individual; that’s just the fact,” he said. “This case has nothing to do with permitless carry.”

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