NASHVILLE — State House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick said today he’s working with legal staff on a “Blue Lives Matter” bill for next year that would make it a “hate crime” to target Tennessee police and first responders.

The legislation, the Chattanooga Republican said, would put public safety workers in a “protected class” and boost criminal penalties and fines for violators who specifically target and attack them.

McCormick cited recent attacks in Memphis as helping spur the legislation.

“I have enormous respect for the men and women who put on a uniform and risk their lives on a daily basis to serve and protect our communities,” McCormick said today in a news release. “Just recently, I read about an incident in our state that involved individuals firing multiple shots at a highway patrol station.”

The incident occurred in Memphis. Meanwhile, Memphis Police Officer Verdell Smith, 46, died Saturday from injuries after being struck by the fleeing vehicle of a man suspected in a downtown shooting that left three other people wounded according to numerous news reports.

“Frankly, I’m tired of watching the news and seeing our public servants assaulted by those they protect,” McCormick said. “Individuals must realize that attacking a police officer or a firefighter or emergency medical personnel in this state, simply, will not be tolerated, and I believe this legislation will help meet that goal.”

The name McCormick chose for the bill mirrors that of the “Blue Lives Matter” organization and movement. The organization arose in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement, which grew out of police shootings of unarmed black males. Blue Lives Matter is intended to help police officers and their families.

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