Republican Party House Caucus
After the less than triumphant 2011 Legislative session in the Tennessee House under the leadership of Speaker Beth Harwell, it appeared that perhaps the rank and file House Republicans realized the impact that their “omissions” had had on the firearms owners of Tennessee who helped put them into office. On July 13, 2011, Rep. Gerald McCormick (House Republican Caucus Leader) released a letter to caucus members in which he announced the creation of the “Republican Caucus Firearms Issues Task Force” (for the House of Representatives). That letter provides (with some emphasis added)
Fellow Caucus Members:
I hope that this letter finds you well. I am very proud of the great things we accomplished together during this past legislative session, and confident that we will continue that positive momentum when we return in January. In order to accomplish that goal, it is vital that we devote time during recess to study important issues that impact all those that live across our great state.
With that in mind, I am writing this letter to advise you that I am appointing a Republican Caucus Firearms Issues Task Force. The rights guaranteed by the Second Amendment are sacred to many citizens, and we must ensure we craft responsible legislation to protect those rights. This task force will be responsible for studying current state laws to identify if any changes may need to be made. In addition, it will meet with outside groups to gain a better understanding of these issues. The task force will report back to members of the Republican Caucus with results of their study.
The Republican Caucus Firearms Issues Task Force will consist of the following members:
Rep. Curry Todd, Chairman
Speaker Pro Tempore Judd Matheny
Rep. Joshua Evans
Rep. Andy Holt
Rep. Barrett Rich
Rep. Glen Casada
Rep. John Forgety
Please feel free to contact members of this task force if you have any additional questions about this important issue.
On July 14, 2011, TFA sent an email to all members of the Republican caucus task force as well as to House leaders and Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey. That communication outlined the issues that TFA has focused on during the last 16 years and also the issues on which we had prioritized some legislative focus.
Recently, TFA was asked if we had looked forward to progress with Republican control of state government in 2011 as a “perfrect storm” and by most respects one could say that in 2010 that was the perspective and hope for 2011. TFA had hope that the years of promises from the Republican leadership would materialize. Indeed, Tennesseans have been told by Speaker Harwell that the House Republican Caucus is 100% for the Second Amendment. But, sadly, we knew from her own votes that this could not be true. We can look at what was introduced and failed to pass in 2011 in the House to gauge the factual accuracy of her assertion. We can now look back at 2011 and assess that the predicted “perfect storm” was perhaps a drizzle at best. It does have to be viewed with rememberance of who is in leadership. At this point, we can look forward with caution to 2012 to see if 2011 was a mere oversight or whether it was an intended disregard of prior political promises.
Nevertheless, as the July announcement of the House Republican caucus task force was made, the announcement itself gave some evidence that Rep. McCormick was aware of 2011, the response of Tennessee’s gun owners to the 2011 legislative events, and the need to take seriously the task of evaluated state law in light of the constitutionally protected rights of citizens. TFA realized that the actions of this task force concerning how seriously it undertakes the task of removing infringements and enabling law abiding citizens to purchase, own, possess, carry, use, hunt with and recreationally enjoy firearms as well as the actions of the Republican Caucus in response to the task force’s anticipated report would be a benchmark for the 2012 legislative session as well as the 2012 elections.
The initial meeting of the task force was cancelled almost immediately after the chairman of the task force was arrested in Nashville on DUI charges and also charged with possession of a handgun while under the influence of alcohol. Most unfortunate from many perspectives.
News reports (e.g., Chattanooga Times Free Press) initially indicated that Rep. McCormick was going to cancel the task force. Then, within a few days, news reports stated that Speaker Pro Tempore Judd Matheny, who has a solid record supporting Second Amendment rights, had offered to chair the task force and continue with the mission. It was said that the task force would meet at some point after Thanksgiving. Although TFA’s leadership had been in contact with ALL task force members, none of them notified TFA’s leadership that the task force had scheduled a meeting for Monday following Thanksgiving. One TFA director received a call sometime on the Sunday perhaps less than 24 hours prior to the meeting and was able to make arrangements to be there. However, there was NO general notice that the task force was meeting and it was poorly attended. It was not video streamed. It met briefly and was only partially attended by those appointed to serve on it. It has been reported that one or more additional meetings should be held. This effort, at this point, pales in comparision to the kinds of meetings that were held back in the 1996 time frame when the Speaker’s office directed that the House Judiciary actually conduct hearings and a study on fixing the handgun permit law.
So, as mid-December is upon us, the constitutionally based conservatives in Tennessee, Tennessee’s firearms owners, and those who had worked to place perceived conservatives in office, the image of what 2012 might bring is starting to emerge like a prophecy from the fog of the future and it seems disappointingly reflective of what happened in the Tennessee General Assembly in 2012. Perhaps that is exactly the commandment coming from the Speaker’s office and from some of the others in leadership.
Rather than a year of legislative success, 2012 may well turn into a year where once again constitutionally based conservatives will be looking for candidates in primaries and general elections who will – independent of party designation – honor, uphold and respect not only the constitutions but the rights that these constitutions themselves recognize as pre-existing and otherwise established.
A word of clarification — there are some members of the legislature, including some in leadership, who feel that TFA and gunowners are being unfair on Republicans. They assert that the Republican caucuses are the “best friend” of Tennessee’s conservatives, gun owners and even TFA. By “best friend”, they may really mean “better than the Democrat caucus”. It is perfectly clear by their own actions which individuals in the General Assembly and other parts of state government are truly conservatives who take the oath to uphold the Constitution – all of the Constitution – as a bedrock on which the sacrifices of public service and stewardship must be based. It is also abundantly clear which individuals in state government are not “100%” behind the Second Amendment and instead use it perhaps as nothing more than a part of the campaign “toolkit” to get and keep political power.
Gun Show Promoter Declares “Gun Show Loophole” Exists
This week, the Tennessean and local news stations have been giddy with reports that a former gun show promoter and Second Amendment advocate has announced that there is in fact a “gun show loophole” and has asserted that the State of Tennessee must take steps to close it.
Actually, the law is clear that there is no “loophole”. What some people are falsely calling a “loophole” is actually the application of what is commonly referred to under both federal and state law as the “casual sale exception.” Under the law, individuals and entities who are “in the business” of dealing in firearms are required to have a federal firearms license. Under the law, only those individuals who are federally licensed can and are required to do “Brady” background checks when they make retail sales of firearms to individuals or entities that do not have federal dealer licenses. As part of the law, the policy decision was made and has existed for a long time that there is no constitional (“commerce clause”) or policy basis to require private citizens who are not “in the business” of dealing in firearms to perform formal background checks when they transfer (including sales, trades and gifts) personal firearms.
The gun show loophole is frequently cited by gun-control groups as a basis to end or more heavily regulate gun shows. The gun control advocates claim that guns are sold at shows without the required background checks and/or that criminals often use these shows to acquire guns illegally. However, gun shows are regulated in the same manner as all other gun sales. Federally licensed firearms dealers, who by far are the actual sellers of the firearms at gun shows, are required by law to perform the Brady / FBI background checks before selling them a firearm to an individual. This requirement applies no matter where the sale takes place – including gun shows. As noted above, those who are not firearms dealers (licensed or unlicensed) are not required to perform the background check. Consequently, if a private individual wants to sell their gun collection, he or she can rent a table at a gun show (if the promoter allows unlicensed individuals to rent tables) and they are subject to the same laws as if they sold the gun online, in a newspaper ad, to a hunting buddy or at a garage sale.
Gun control groups suggest that criminals prefer to get guns at gun shows and that closing the “loophole” is really just good crime prevention. However, government statistics actually prove that the number of criminals who get guns at gun shows is statistically insignificant. Bureau of Justice statistics show that less than .7% of criminals get their guns at gun shows. In the statistics, most criminals (78.8%) get their guns off the street or from family members. So, the real target, the primary victim of the “gun show loophole” claims are the law-abiding gun owners and enthusiasts.
This week’s news reports proclaim that former gun show promoter, Bob Pope, is himself proposing that there is a “gun show loophole” and that the State of Tennessee needs to pass legislation requiring that all individuals who do not have a federal firearms license would be prohibited from selling personal firearms at or about gun shows unless they do a TBI background check on the proposed purchaser. It raises the questionof whether this is sadly more 2nd Amendment infringements from a former promoter or perhaps just a means of protecting the financial interests of those licensed dealers who pay gun show promoters for tables?
It is interesting that on one of the TV news reports, the other person interviewed was a gun store owner – someone who might benefit at a gun show from eliminating or minimizing the ability of private citizens to engage in “casual sales”. Chris Tenpenny at Nashville Sporting Arms apparently supports Bob Pope’s idea that the casual sale exception which has been a part of federal law since, well since federal law starting regulating the sales of firearms, should be amended to require that all sales of guns by individuals must go through background checks – at least if the individual wants to sell a personal firearm in or at a gun show.
Channel 5 news in Nashville ran this story:
by Amanda Hara
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Are gun shows a gateway for criminals to buy firearms? One local man thinks so.
For more than two decades, Bob Pope ran gun shows in the Mid-state.
But now he’s asking for a new law that would make sure convicted felons aren’t buying guns, or unloading stolen ones, at gun shows.
Bob Pope started running gun shows in 1983, and retired in 2008. During that time, he said he noticed a major flaw in the industry.
“If I was a criminal and I wanted to buy a high powered glock I would go to the Gun Show,” said Pope.
Pope said felons show up at gun shows to buy firearms; not from dealers who require a background check, but from other patrons of the show because they know a background check isn’t required for a private party sale.
Pope proposed a new law that would require background checks on any gun sale at gun shows, even transactions between private parties. Not just to prevent felons from getting guns, but also to protect buyers.
“I like that I do not wish to buy a stolen gun because in the future I could lose that gun if I ever had it run I could lose the gun,” said Pope.
Local gun dealers seemed on board with the proposal.
Chris Tenpenny owns Nashville Sporting Arms.
“The background check is not just a thing that’s done on the individual it’s also running the background history on the gun. The last thing I’d want to do is go to a gun show and buy a gun from an individual that was used in a crime or was stolen. You don’t know anything about that gun or where it came from,” he said.
Of course none of this is going over well with some gun advocates
But Pope said he’s as pro-gun as they come and a strong advocate of the second amendment.
Pope said, “This deal is a crime prevention thing that makes sure convicted felons are not buying their guns illegally that’s all it is.”
Pope said he’d like to see Gun Show Organizers pay the TBI to set up one agent at every show who background checks every gun that’s bought and sold. Pope said those with Carry Permits would be exempt from paying a $10 fee for the check.
Similarly, the Tennessean newspaper reported this week that Bob Pope has met with Congressman Jim Cooper (oh, another noted supporter of the Second Amendment) to discuss his proposal to close the “loophole”. Gail Kerr, of the Tennessan, reported in her column:
Let there be no doubt: Bob Pope is a gun-packing Republican. The sixth-generation Tennessean is a Newt Gingrich-supporting Second Amendment advocate who ran gun shows for 25 years.
But he said his buddies in the Tennessee Firearms Association are irritated by his one-man campaign to close the so-called “gun show loophole,” which he claims allows murderers and thieves to buy stolen guns.
“If I was going to buy an illegal gun, I’d go to a gun show and buy it,” said Pope, a towering man perched on an old-fashioned wing chair in the formal living room of his Hermitage home near the Wilson County line.
The two-story Colonial stays locked behind a wrought-iron driveway gate sporting decorative replicas of handguns. Clocks bong the hour. Bright-colored silk roses are perched in a vase. Pope looked like John Wayne visiting his grandmother’s parlor as he explained his plan.
He met with U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper but decided his best bet was with the state legislature. He has meetings set up with GOP lawmakers. Given a chance, he’d testify.
“I started doing gun shows in 1983, sold out in 2008,” Pope said. “I saw the gun shows change, really not for the good.”
The three-day shows, held at expos and fairgrounds, allow dealers and individuals to buy, sell and trade guns.
“Currently, I would estimate, on the low side, there are over 100 gun shows across the state of Tennessee every year,” Pope said. “On the low side, there are 1,000 guns without any records sold at every show, every day.”
There’s no way to prove that, because statistics on those sales don’t exist.
Licensed dealers are allowed to buy and sell at the shows. If you buy a gun from them, they run a check with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation to make sure that you are at least 18 and not a felon, and that the gun was not stolen. This costs the buyer $10.
But if an individual sells a gun to a buyer at a gun show, there are no checks. That’s the loophole Pope wants changed. Every gun sale at a show should require the duel TBI check, he says.
Pope says the system allows people who break into houses and steal guns to easily resell them. It allows felons to buy guns.
Not ‘gun control’ but ‘crime control’
“I’m hard-core Second Amendment,” said Pope, a boisterous and opinionated man. “But I also believe citizens should be able to walk around or sit on their front porch without bullets flying.”
Criminals, he said, “should not have guns. This tells the purchaser at a gun show he’s buying a clean gun. It tells felons to find somewhere else to go.”
The money from the $10 fee would pay for the TBI to do the extra checks, he said.
“It’s the only way you can control gun violence in this state.”
The Republican-led legislature has a task force about to debate a slew of gun laws. Most would loosen things up.
As far as Pope is concerned, legal owners should be able to carry their gun anywhere they want. But the gun show loophole needs to be closed.
Isn’t that somewhat ironic? He doesn’t see it.
“What I’m talking about hasn’t a darn thing to do with gun control,” Pope said. “It has to do with crime control.”
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