Newsletter from Tennessee Firearms Association; March 13, 2012:
Tennessee Citizens must not accept unacceptable compromises
Since 1995, TFA has seen many bills introduced and has had to address many proposed “compromises” that were little more than watered down efforts by legislators to pass something for “election purposes” rather than to hold firm and pass good, sound legislation. Do not be seduced by baby steps and unacceptable compromise. Our mission will not be achieved in the short run and never think that it will. Our mission, including the full restoration of the rights of the citizen to both self-defense and political authority against government if and when necessary, is one which will require that we commit to devoting time and resources to a long battle to restore those rights infringed by or with the blessing of government.
This was most recently the case with the restaurant laws in 2009 and 2010. Those who will recall know that we fought on that issue since at least 1996. It took 14 years to succeed, the passage of legislation twice in both houses and also two overrides of Bredesen vetoes. During the fight in 2009 and to a lesser extent in 2010, I heard some 2nd Amendment advovates argue that the citizens should be willing to accept “reasonable” compromises including confusing definitions of what a “restaurant” was, what a “bar” or “tavern” was, proposed curfews, and other such “reasonable” proposals. Some of us angered “friends” when we opposed “reasonable” compromise. Some of us angered legislators when we were unwilling to accept “reasonable” compromises, that is, infringements.
When the issue is the right of self-defense, at what point does any measurable risk to your life or the lives of your spouse or children seem reasonable to you? Do you want to see on your tombstone, “Here lies Bob – he believed in reasonable compromise . . . and lost his life because of it”?
What are the problems with “reasonable” compromise? First, in the context of self-defense, it is a compromise of a capacity instilled by God – the instinct and capacity for self-defense. In the context of self-defense, a “reasonable” compromise usually means nothing more than defining circumstances under which the individual’s capacity for effective self-defense is impaired by the intentional act of Government.
Another problem is “reasonable” compromise is that it normally creates a long term status where no further changes to that law will be viable. I have heard politicans often object to modifications of existing laws by saying something to the effect of “We just addressed that last year or X many years ago, let’s see how that works before we change things.” Do you really think that they are monitoring the issue to see if they made the right choice? In a specific example, in 2009 we opposed in the restaurant carry context some compromises such as a curfew. However, one compromise when the sponsor wanted and would not back away from was the attempt to define “a restaurant” so that not all restaurants were covered under the law. Had that law survived the constitutional challenge by Randy Rayburn, we would not see the Tennessee legislature willing to revisit that law so soon and remove the definitional confusion and restrictions that made some “restaurants” ok and others off limits. Because of the litigation brought on by Rayburn, the 2009 law was declared unconstitutional and the legislature was given a 2nd chance in 2010 to pass a law with fewer limits and ambiguities.
So it is with the Employee Safe Commute bill. We should not willingly accept compromise except in very rare circumstances. We should not accept 50%, 60% or even 95% of what we demand just to get a little in the short term rather than to be patient and demanding to get what is correct in the long term. Compromise breeds medicore and confusing laws.
Compromise is the darling of fence sitting legislators who lack the spine to fully the enforce their campaign promises and the language of the 2nd Amendment. Compromise is nothing more than luke-warm appeasement and in the current context it is the apparent appeasement of Big Business financial contributors.
With respect to the proposed Employee Safe Commute law, what are some of the possible compromises? Limit the law to permit holders only. But what is the rationale from denying a citizen the capacity to determine what is in her personal car – even when parked on the employer’s parking lot – so long as the contents of the car is legally owned or possessed? What about excluding the application of the law from government employers, municipal employers, schools, employers with fenced employee parking, employers who have security gates or guards, employers who contribute a lot of money to Republicans? Which of these have any less risk to the citizen while commuting to or from work? Which of these have any less infringement of the rights of the employee to determine for herself what she will legally store in her car? Which of these provide any greater security for the employee when they are either at work or commuting? None. All are appeasements to Big Business or government interests and none further the basic concern of protecting the capacity of citizens to determine for themselves how to best defend their own life from risk of harm while off the property of the employer?
So, as we near the end of the legislative session, what can we expect?
First, many diluting “reasonable” compromises may be proposed. From experience and realizing that this battle may not be a short term victory, we must be ever willing to say no to unacceptable compromises to our personal rights and safety. We must be willing to identify those who would sell our right of self-defense to the highest bidder and be prepared to either change their disposition or remove them from public service through the voting booth.
Second, we may see delaying tactics, particularly by the House Republican leadership, to keep the bills from coming to a recorded vote. Ultimately, this is a very realistic probability. Harwell, Maggart and McCormick have made it clear for at least 2 years that “what they say” is not “what they do” relative to 2nd Amendment issues. These three, the Axis, did not and do not want to be subjected to a high profile news reports and commentary relative to their true willingness to support the 2nd Amendment. No one truly believed Harwell when she claimed that the Republican House caucus was 100% behind the 2nd Amendment and her actions have reinforced the “truth” behind that assertion.
These House Republican leaders do not want to see a recorded vote – particularly in an election year – on firearms legislation or amendments. They do not want a record of what they do. They do not want to see public scrutiny by a recorded vote to carry more pressure on their rank and file members than the political pressure that these Republican leaders (including the Governor) have been exerting (with the urging of Big Business money) in private caucus meetings and behind closed doors to kill or dilute these bills. Indeed, you must ask if the Axis really did not want for firearms issues to be high profile in this election year with significant negative tones directed toward them and the Republican caucus, then why did they set upon a course designed to anger citizens, the NRA, the TFA, Tea Parties and fundamentally constitutional conservatives? One must wonder who developed this strategy for House Leadership and should they be serving in the legislature if this is the best that they can do?
But, you may ask, don’t the Republicans totally control the Legislature? Why, yes, yes they do. The Republican caucus members – put these individuals such as Harwell, Maggart and McCormick into leadership. Some reports are that they were essentially threatened to put those 3 in power – particularly Harwell who has a documented history of voting against 2nd Amendment issues – by threats from Haslam’s office that the failure to vote for Harwell could have “consequences” as rank and file members looked to the administration for increased services – like roads and bridges – in their districts. But the fact is that there are 64 Republicans in the House and only 50 votes are needed to pass a bill.
Indeed, if the Republican caucus was really as pro 2nd Amendment as Beth Harwell claims then what is the problem with passing 2nd Amendment Laws? Well, there are a couple of problems. One is Beth Harwell. She does not support 2nd Amendment issues, never really has and never probably will. Another is Beth Harwell, Maggart and McCormick – they like the money from Big Business that is flowing into the Republican campaign accounts like the waters rushing from the mountains at the commencement of the Biblical flood of Noah. Another is leadership in general, they do not like political pressure from what they perceived to be organizations that, according to Maggart, “have no choice” but to vote for and support the Republicans.
That said, ultimately the problem lies with the rank and file members of the caucus. For these leaders to be on the path that they are on at least a majority of the caucus members – those who want your vote, go to church with you and are your “friends” when they need your vote – must be either supporting the actions of leadership or be unwilling to demand that their selected leaders change course. Note well, that if this Employee Safe Commute laws do not pass, if they do not get a recorded vote, if they are killed in subcommittee that the “aiders and abettors” to that consequence flows directly to every Republican legislator who refused or was unwilling to openly and publicly oppose leadership’s demands on these issues. There are some. For example, HB3560 by Rep. Bass has 30 sponsors – many of them are House Republicans:
Evans, Eldridge, Faison, Weaver, Matheny, Pody, Wirgau, Tidwell, Holt, Floyd, Shipley, Ragan, Campbell, Butt, Keisling, Windle, Halford, Hill, Sanderson, Casada, Parkinson, Swann, Lollar, Alexander, Hall, Gotto, Ford , Forgety, Rich
But do not let mere listing as a co-sponsor be the end of the inquiry. Truly, some are listed as co-sponsors anticipating that the bill will not move forward and they have therefore recorded for political advantage public support for a dead bill in an election year.
The question is other than Rep. Bass – how many of the 29 other sponsors are on the front lines demanding that leadership change course and pass this legislation? Sadly, very few. For example, Rep. Jimmy Eldridge chairs the House committee where the bills are assigned. He could bypass the subcommittee in which the bills may be stopped on March 14 and pull the bill directly to the full committee. Has Eldridge done so? No. If he fails to do so, perhaps we need to find someone to primary him this year or in the near future. Perhaps we need to contact his campaign contributors and start talking to them. Perhaps firearms owners need to be prepared and preparing focus attention on making sure that Rep. Eldridge’s acts and omission as the chair of the House Employee and Consumer Affairs committee understands that he had the opportunity and the power to advance HB3560 that he “sponsors” and hold him accountable for, if he fails, not acting within his power to move it forward despite the threats of leadership that appointed him.
The point is that there must be at the hands of the citizens consequences to individual legislators for 1) bowing blindly to threats from leadership; 2) failing to affirmatively and zealously advancing the progression of legislation that they publicly claim to “champion”; and 3) understand by legislators that there are probably more constitutionally conservative candidates for office in their districts.
Third, you may well see efforts by Republican leadership to attempt to “divide and conquer” citizens with firearms interests. It must be anticipated that behind closed doors, leadership – most probably in the House – will be attempting to create division between and among the NRA, TFA, Gun Owners of American and other organizations, including the Tea Party groups. It will not be the first time that legislators have attempted to address pending legislation by creating dissent, confusion and disagreement among proponents. The reputations for dishonesty (e.g., the caucus is 100% pro 2nd Amendment), disenguineness (ditto) and manipulation did not arise without factual basis.
It is time to renew demands on legislators to pass this legislation without material compromise and leadership “hints”. However, whether the bills pass or fail, the responsibility of the citizens to demand accountability does not end there – it never ends. We must defend our rights and our privileges not just against enemies from without but also, sadly, sometimes from those who in sheep’s clothing have attained power from within.
When is it ok to be against real property rights?
This is an interesting analysis that appeared in Ohio when the Employee Safe Commute topic was being addressed in its legislature in 2005:
By Ken Hanson Esq.
By now, everyone is aware of the National Rifle Association’s call to boycott ConocoPhillips. This has, unfortunately, caused a crisis of conscience among gun owners, who tend to zealously support private property rights. Do we muster to the boycott banner, or do we sit this one out? What is a libertarian (I use the word “libertarian” in this article as shorthand for someone who zealously supports private property rights, not to frame this as an argument of a political party or ideology) to do?
On one side of the brain, we concern ourselves with the right of private property owners to do as they please with their property. If property owners want to exclude firearms from their property, that is their absolute right, correct? We certainly do not want the government telling us what to do on our own property. What could be more basic than that? This argument is a refrain we see time and again on various forums when gun owners are discussing the type of law that Oklahoma passed, or the type of law that allows a CHL to come into a business armed despite the business owner’s desires to the contrary.
On the other side of our brain, we concern ourselves with the right of individuals to be free and secure, and to bear arms to that end. Perhaps nothing is more central to our existence than the right and the ability to protect ourselves and our family from two legged predators. Nothing will send us into orbit quicker than reading about yet another knee jerk gun control scheme that will, like all other gun control, impact no one but the law abiding.
So, how is the gun owner to defuse this civil war of the brain? I would propose that the answer is really quite simple.
First, whether you view it as right, wrong or indifferent, government has already largely eliminated the right of private property owners to control the actions of others on their property. Perform the following thought experiment with me. You are driving up to the gates of ConocoPhillips to report to work tomorrow morning. At the ConocoPhillips property line, you notice that the dreaded no-gun signs have been replaced by one of the following signs:
“No Jews.” “No Negroes.” “No Muslims.” “No Republicans.” “No Kerry/Bush bumper stickers.” “No Bibles.” “Company approved books only.” “No unwed mothers or fornicators.” “No cripples.” “No Irish need apply.”
Of course, you will not see these signs on their fences, because ConocoPhillips would be sued back into the Stone Age, and the corporate officers would be in jail. Now, I know some of the core libertarians are out there thinking, “Well, ConocoPhillips should be able to do those things, too, as part of their private property rights.” However, I hope you will grant me the luxury of reality, and acknowledge that the thought experiment signs are not legally tolerable, and that is not going to change.
I propose that this issue is entirely misstated by those who cast it in a “private property rights versus gun rights” framework. The issue, properly framed, is that gun owners are simply seeking equal protection for the exercise of their rights. We are not asking for special treatment; we are asking for equal treatment. Since the property owner must already allow the exercise of those other rights, then they must allow the exercise of our rights. Only when the government decides to allow private property owners to exclude people based upon ANY factor, however objectionable, may the private property owner then exclude the gun owner. Under the status quo, gun owners are merely exercising rights and should be treated no different than any other person exercising a right.
As a final observation, this debate really is not about private property rights at all. The ConocoPhillips policy renders defenseless those who otherwise could defend themselves well beyond the corporate property boundary line. Any person with a concealed handgun license cannot carry to or from work as a result of the ConocoPhillips’ policy. Think about that, the impact of the ConocoPhillips policy is not just in their parking lot. It impacts individuals driving to work, from work and all stops between. The ConocoPhillips policy inflicts their beliefs upon all their workers, suppliers, vendors and the other private businesses involved in the “to and from” route of the workers.
Should ConocoPhillips be allowed to create an entire class of victims in the hour before or after work, when those people are on their way to or from, but nowhere near, ConocoPhillips’ property? That is the practical impact of their policy and the exercise of their “private property rights.” Is the government going to hold ConocoPhillips liable for the security of this victim class off ConocoPhillips property? Of course not.
In summary, the gun owner needs to properly frame this debate. The ConocoPhillips policy impacts people well beyond their corporate property line. Gun owners are not seeking special treatment and are not seeking to infringe upon ConocoPhillips’ private property rights. Rather, we are just asking for our rights to be treated equal with all other protected classes of rights – prohibit all or allow all, but do not allow ConocoPhillips to discriminate between the rights exercised.
What is the libertarian to do with the boycott? As for myself, I shall muster to the cause and sleep soundly at night for having done so.
About the author:
Ken Hanson is a private practice attorney involved in civil and criminal firearms cases across Ohio. Ken is also the author of “The Ohio Guide to Firearm Laws.”
Tennessee Legislative Leaders assert TFA is too harsh or unwilling to compromise reasonably
Time is short. Life is precious. Life, once taken, cannot be restored. Some legislative leaders have suggested that TFA is being too unreasonable and unwilling to compromise. We are, of course, talking about the right of individuals to defend themselves and the impairment of that right. That takes many components including permitting, restaurants, school grounds, public areas, public parks, commuting on public roads – anywhere that one might reasonable anticipate an agressor. Yet elected officials object to TFA’s insistence that the right of self defense be not infringed to the maximum extent possible under the law. After all, the Second Amendment says “shall not be infringed.” It does not say, “shall not be infringed unless there are reasonable compromises that satisfy Big Business, law enforcement, liberals or the sensitivites of the news media.”