The 2024 session of the Tennessee General Assembly is scheduled to convene in Nashville on Tuesday, January 9.
According to his personal website, Daniel Lubetzky was born in Mexico City in the late 1960s and came to the United States with his family as a teenager.
In 2004, Lubetzky is the founded the snack company Kind LLC. It was reportedly worth $5 billion when the company was sold to Mars Inc. in 2020. When the company was under his management, Lubetzky was named a Presidential Ambassador of Global Entrepreneurship by former President Barack Obama and his administration’s Commerce Secretary, Penny Pritzker.
His foundation received its tax-exempt status in 2017, and a federal tax filing from 2021 indicates the Lubetzky Family Foundation has offices at 3 Times Square, also known as the Thomson Reuters Building, in New York. The Lubetzky Family Foundation spent nearly $3.5 million in 2021, when its eight highest-earning employees were each paid more than $100,000, and collectively were compensated $1,294,410.
Lubetzky’s involvement in Tennessee politics comes through a group called Citizen Solutions, which is a project of Starts With Us, which in turn is a project of the Lubetzky Family Foundation. Citizen Solutions seems to exist to spread awareness of the suggestions made by the Tennessee 11, a group of 11 Tennessee residents affiliated with Citizen Solutions.
The Tennessee 11 apparently met for the first time in September, when the group held a “solution session” in Franklin.
In October, the Tennessee 11 announced eight proposals for new laws, regulations, and initiatives they claim would contribute toward the prevention of gun violence. Among the proposals, according to a press release by Citizen Solutions, are calls for Tennessee to pass a red flag law, which would allow courts to order the temporary suspension of an individual’s right to bear arms, require Student Resource Officers (SROs) be trained in “mental health first aid” and “trauma-informed care,” and create “an incentives-first approach to gun ownership rights and responsibilities.”
Another proposal includes Tennessee investing resources to prevent traumatic childhood experiences that could potentially precipitate gun violence.
The Tennessee 11 also proposed laws or regulations requiring Tennesseans obtain a license or permit to carry a handgun, though the group noted, “the TN11 reached a majority but not unanimous consensus on this proposal and now asks the public for feedback.”
In November, the Citizen Solutions “opened a public feedback platform,” according to The Daily Beacon, which reported the activists “are encouraging [University of Tennessee] students to give feedback on the proposals” made by the Tennessee 11.
On the Citizen Solutions website, the activists claim their gun control proposals were drafted by “Tennesseans with very different perspectives.” Citizen Solutions also bills itself as “an ambitious civic experiment empowering Americans to counteract the extreme voices dominating media and politics by elevating the will of the people.”
However, several of the activists who comprise the Tennessee 11 appear to be partisan, and some worked for the Democratic Party or are former Democratic political candidates.
One of the Tennessee 11, Brandi Kellett, is an Associate Professor at Lipscomb University, and her “areas of scholarship focus on culture, memory and faith as a resistance to oppression in the African disapora across the Americas,” according to her university biography.
Arriell Gipson, a Memphis Democrat who unsuccessfully ran for Shelby County Clerk in 2022, is another member of the Tennessee 11. A profile for her campaign revealed she is “the committee chair for the Mayor’s Young Professional Council, Violence Prevention and Criminal Justice Reform Committee, First Vice President for the Shelby County Young Democrats, a graduate of Leaders of Color, Organizing for Action, New Memphis Leadership Institute, and The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology.”
Another member, former Tennessee state trooper Mark Proctor, wrote in a guest column for The Tennessean in August that “stricter gun regulations save lives.” The Tennessee 11 member specifically argued in favor of a “[s]trict permitting process” and new legislation to “[k]eep guns away from the wrong people.”
Therapist Adam Luke joined the Tennessee 11 from Columbia, Tennessee. In October, Starts With Us published a lengthy statement from Luke on social media. Luke lamented, “When we talk about guns, there’s so much division. Either we’re attacking traditions or we want people to be in harm’s way.”
He urged Tennesseans to “have that bigger discussion of recognizing that what you’re feeling is legitimate, but sometimes our feelings alone aren’t the only information we need to be taking in.” While Luke seemed hesitant to support a red flag law in his statement, the group’s proposal to “[a]llow courts to temporarily remove someone’s firearms if they are deemed a danger to themselves or others based on certain criteria showing they are at risk of committing violence” had the unanimous support of the Tennessee 11.
While Lubetzky funds the Tennessee 11 through his New York-based Lubetzky Family Foundation, he is also an Inaugural Board of Directors member for the controversial Anti-Defamation League (ADL). The ADL notes Lubetzky is the recipient of awards from the World Economic Forum, Skoll Foundation, Conscious Capitalism, and Hispanic Heritage Foundation.
It remains unclear if Lubetzsky’s efforts will bear fruit after a significant push for gun control failed in 2023, when Democrats were joined by Governor Bill Lee (R) in calls for restrictions following the Covenant School shooting.
Red flag legislation was unsuccessful during the regular session in 2023, and though Lee called a special session for the Tennessee General Assembly to pursue gun control initiatives, the governor did not back a red flag law proposal for a second time. Ultimately, no gun restrictions were passed during the special session, and Lee recently signaled that he does not intend to push for red flag legislation in 2024.
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Tom Pappert is the lead reporter for The Tennessee Star, and also reports for The Georgia Star News, The Virginia Star, and the Arizona Sun Times.