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"Jillian's Law" Makes it to Capitol Hill

Belmont Vision Multimedia, Zach Watkins

Decorated white T-shirts stood out against the drabness of governmental buildings, flooding the hearing room seating with one cohesive message. 


“Justice for Jillian.” 


After the shooting of freshman Belmont student Jillian Ludwig, there has been an outcry from students, members of the community and those who knew Jillian well to close the loophole in Tennessee law that gave Shaquille Taylor the chance to hurt another member of Nashville.  


House Bill 1640, commonly referred to as “Jillian's law," is the latest legislative proposal that states any individual who is deemed incompetent to stand trial due to mental defectiveness “poses a substantial likelihood of serious harm” in the eyes of the law. 


On Feb. 6, friends and family filled the hearing room of the Tennessee House to speak to legislators on the importance of passing this bill and to show the support they have garnered behind the movement in remembrance of Ludwig’s life and impact.  


“Jillian Ludwig was the type of person who would light up a room from just her presence, a quality that not a lot of people have. She was intelligent, kind, and extremely dedicated. Now Jill lies six feet underground due to the laws, or lack thereof, put in place by the state of Tennessee,” said Eddie Winey, one of the organizers of the event at Bongo Java earlier this week.


Within an hour of the event over 100 "Justice for Jillian" T-shirts were sold and by the end of the day more than 150 letters had been signed expressing support of the law as it began its journey through the Tennessee Justice Committee.  


“It's not fair that the loss of Jillian's life is the motivation for this change,” said Livia Mehalovich, former roommate and an organizer. “A change that most would agree is common sense.”   


While the support now is invaluable to the cause, many now look to the previous August in which the house failed to pass mental health legislation when given the opportunity. 


“I know this legislator had the opportunity to pass mental health legislation during a special session in August, but it did not get through the Senate. Change at that point would have prevented Jillian's murder. It's heartbreaking that it took someone losing her life, my poor beautiful Jillian, to restart this conversation,” said Jessica Ludwig, mother of Jillian. “There is no more time to waste. Isn't it the primary duty of government to protect its citizens? So please make the right choice today.”  


Ludwig’s friends and family are continuing to voice support to pass HB1640 not only to remember a loved one who was lost to senseless violence but also to protect more from the potential dangers current legislation still allows.  


“If you happen to not agree with this new legislation today, I ask you to work with us. Don't just say no, please work with us so that we can all be protected from repeat violent offenders,” said Mehalovich. 


Following the outcry of support from the house hearing, more sponsors have been added to back HB1640.  


“I know I will never recover, and I will shoulder the immense grief and pain I feel over her loss for the rest of my life. It is a pain I know many of you have never felt, but let me assure you, there is nothing worse than losing a child,” said Ludwig, to a silent board of legislators. 


To keep up to date follow @Justice4Jillian. 


To learn more about HB1640:


This article was written by Zach Watkins

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