Dear Lt. Governor Ramsey and Speaker Harwell:
On behalf of the members of the National Rifle Association throughout Tennessee—and as a Tennessee native and property owner—I’m writing to urge you to pass SB 2992/HB3559 and SB3002/HB 3560 and to reject any weakening amendments or language that would undermine the bill, specifically language contained in Majority Leader McCormick’s HB 3660 which introduces several of the worst aspects of the current statute found in the neighboring state of Georgia. SB2992/HB3559 and SB3002/HB 3560 will safeguard working men and women in Tennessee against employment discrimination and protect their right to keep a legally owned firearm locked in their private vehicles.
The debate over these bills is about lawsuits versus lives. The business community wants to be able to ban law-abiding Americans from keeping lawfully owned firearms properly stored in their vehicles. Their motivation is to protect their bottom line. The National Rifle Association opposes them because this action will gut the average person’s ability to exercise his or her Second Amendment rights.
Publicly accessible parking lots aren’t safe havens. Headlines remind us that muggings, robberies, assaults, rapes and even murders happen in these parking lots. That’s why it is essential for law-abiding Tennesseans to have a means of defending themselves and their loved ones should the need arise. Big business contends that this common-sense measure tramples on private property rights. That is a bogus assertion. Businesses have to obey the multiple local, state and federal laws that dictate everything from the number of parking spots to disabled access. When businesses invite the public on their property, they surrender some rights to ensure the safety of their customers. If these businesses cannot guarantee safety in publicly accessible parking lots, members of the public must be able to defend themselves.
Unfortunately, what is fundamental in the minds of most Tennesseans is lost on some members of the business community, who make the absurd claim that this legislation amounts to “excessive regulation.” Anyone who understands our Constitution knows that a law upholding the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens is no more “excessive” than a law upholding our First Amendment right to freedom of speech, of the press, or of religious exercise.
It’s also worth pointing out that two of the big business groups spearheading the opposition to this legislation—the Knoxville Chamber of Commerce and the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce and Industry—killed eminent domain reform legislation in 2010 that would have restored Tennesseans’ basic Fifth Amendment right to fair compensation when the government takes their property against their will. That these same big business organizations are now trying to wrap themselves in the mantle of “private property rights” reeks of opportunism and hypocrisy, not principle.
Opposition to SB2992/HB 3559 and SB3002/HB 3560, and many similar laws across America, was originally contrived by the same gun-ban lobby that wants to strip every American of our right to carry a firearm anywhere, anytime, and for any reason. Now some big corporations in Tennessee have taken the bait and are doing dirty work of the anti-gun lobby, incorrectly suggesting that the passage of these bills will make them liable for criminal acts committed on their property. The truth is that SB2992/HB 3559 and SB 3002/HB3560 would exempt businesses from civil liability arising out of another person’s actions involving a firearm or ammunition transported or stored pursuant to the legislation.
These anti-gun businesses also ignore a 2009 ruling by the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit that upheld a similar statute passed by the Oklahoma state legislature. The ruling noted that the law is not preempted by federal workplace safety regulations.
We would also note that legislators are currently allowed to keep a firearm in their vehicles while parked on the Capitol grounds, in order to protect themselves during their commutes to and from the Capitol. Their constituents deserve no less protection.
No hard-working Tennessean should ever be forced to choose between defending him- or herself, and earning a paycheck. That is why the NRA strongly urges the Tennessee General Assembly to vote for SB2992/HB 3559 and SB3002/HB 3560.
Chris W. Cox
NRA Institute for Legislative Action