Press release from the Tennessee Firearms Association; March 23, 2012:
On March 22, 2012, Speaker Beth Harwell stated during an interview that TNReport.com monitored that she, and apparently all Republican leadership in the General Assembly, are working with “all interested parties” on proposed amendments to the Employee Safe Commute legislation. However, she declared that the table to which “all interested parties” had been invited included on behalf of firearms owners only the National Rifle Association and that it specifically excluded the Tennessee Firearms Association and presumably other interested parties in Tennessee who are not represented by the National Rifle Association.
During that meeting, which is reported on TNReport.com, Beth Harwell is quoted as renewing her dubious and frankly laughable assertion (given the last 2 years under her leadership) that “This [Republican] caucus is dedicated to gun rights, the Second Amendment.”
This creates quite an interesting observation on Beth Harwell and for that matter all Republican Leadership. Furthermore, to the extent that Republican leaders are selected and retained by the rank and file members of the Republican legislative caucuses, the fact that such declarations remain publicly unchallenged by others in the legislative caucuses evidences their tolerance, acceptance and/or support for such declarations. It will require that the dedication of each of these legislators now be scrutinized particularly during an election cycle. No longer will a simple numeric “grade” be enough to purchase support for incumbents. No longer will empty assertions of “I support the 2nd Amendment” be enough.
Now, let us examine the declarations of Beth Harwell as reported on TNReport.com. Her statements, placed in another light, suggest that it is she, her leadership team and/or her caucus who determines who is and is not allowed to be an “interested party” when legislative and state policy is being discussed. It is clear that to her and them it really does not matter whether a citizen or a group of citizens acting in a coordinated manner, like TFA, really are interested parties because she and Republican leadership determine who is and is not “interested.” Perhaps what she meant by the term “interested” is really the concept of those who are cooperative with what the legislature wants or is willing to do. Harwell apparently does not understand the stewardship functions of government on which this nation was founded.
Historically, it is important to note that the role that the right to petition and bring grievances to the attention of government officials has carried in this State and Country. Indeed, the deafness of government was one of the grounds on which independence was declared against England. Consequently, that right (and the corresponding obligation) has been incorporated into our constitution as a fundamental right of the citizens in this Country. As such, the willful actions of elected officials to turn away and ignore petitions and grievances would constitute an intentional violation of the civil rights of the citizens whether acting individually or en masse. Indeed, where in our constitutional structure does it say that only those who are “acceptable” to the government in their tone, demeanor or interest have the right to petition, participate in the public discourse or make grievances? When did Tennessee government convert from a government founded by the citizens and accountable to them to a government existing for the benefit of the elected officials and that operates under the motto “pay to play”?
Looking back, the Declaration of Independence included within its statement of enumerated grievances against the King that he was deaf to their wishes, demands and complaints – “In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.”
It was a serious issue for our Founders in the late 1700’s and under Beth Harwell and her team of House Republican leaders it seems to be a constitutional precept that they would rather disregard in favor of the “pay to play” theory of government access and influence.
Once independence was obtained from England, the right of the people to be involved with the function of government was deemed so central to the proper function of government that it was included in the First Amendment to the Bill of Rights under the guarantee of a “right of the people…to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” Again, letting government decide who is and is not an “interested party” denies that very right of citizenship and substitutes a system of access that makes only the interests of Big Business, Big Labor or other big funding sources who can “pay to play” relevant.
The Tennessee Constitution similarly sets forth in Article 1, Section 23, the “Right of assembly; redress of grievances – That the citizens have a right, in a peaceable manner, to assemble together for their common good, to instruct their representatives, and to apply to those invested with the powers of government for redress of grievances, or other proper purposes, by address or remonstrance.” Apparently, to those to wrote and adopted the Tennessee constitution, government was accountable to the citizens as the interested parties.
Now Harwell, bless her little heart as we say in the South, wants to operate – like English rulers – on the theory that only limited segments of society have access to the ears of those in government under the “interested parties” phrase as she applies it. That is, for Harwell, “interested parties” are only those whom she defines as “interested parties” and normally perhaps only those who have or can “pay to play” with money or perceived influence.
Whether it is the elite with their funding, Big Business or Big Labor with their direct and indirect financial rewards, or simply the concept of so may legislators in leadership of “pay to play” access, her theory of government apparently provides that the only “interested parties” are those in which government itself is interested in hearing from. Thus, citizens would not need the constitutionally protected right to voice grievances and petition government if the real standard is Harwell’s “pay to play” elitist mentality. Civil rights to elitists mean nothing and are nothing more than a concept to be brought out of the chest of campaign tricks every 2 years in order to misdirect the citizens into believing that the incumbent candidates “really do care.”
Setting aside Harwell’s suggestion that TFA is not an “interested party” under what meaning and construction she applies to that phrase, the question is whether TFA and its members are “interested parties” as most voters use and understand that phrase. So, what has TFA done to demonstrate that it is an “interested party.” For starters, TFA is the only organization in the state that focuses solely on these kinds of issues in Tennessee. Certainly, the NRA is here but it is everywhere. TFA is only in Tennessee.
Second, TFA and its members have generated 10’s of thousands of emails to the General Assembly on the Employee Safe Commute bill by itself. We have made television appearances, testified in committee meetings, done news interviews, written to editors and made face to face meetings with legislators (or when legislators shut their doors, with legislative staff).
In addition, TFA has a long history of being an interested party on all firearms and hunting related topics. Indeed, TFA has twice been recognized in 2002 and 2009 by the Tennessee General Assembly as being an “interested party”.
For example, Senate Joint Resolution 115 by Lt. Gov. Ramsey (which Harwell voted for) dated July 4, 2009, declares the following as the basis for the commendation:
- “the Tennessee Firearms Association is the only full-time organization supporting the right to keep and bear arms specifically for Tennesseans”
- “the Tennessee Firearms Association’s members, as well as its experienced Legislative Action Committee, work closely with the General Assembly and the Executive Branch to protect, restore, and secure our rights to keep and bear arms; and”
- “the Tennessee Firearms Association has historically played a stable, important, and essential role in the development and evolution of Tennessee’s laws regarding civil rights, firearms ownership, and hunting;”
- “the membership of the Tennessee Firearms Association has demonstrated repeatedly the effectiveness of a truly bi-partisan grass-roots political movement;”
- “throughout all its endeavors, the Tennessee Firearms Association staunchly defends Article I, Section 26 of the Tennessee Constitution, as well as the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution;”
- “by defending the most time-honored principles of liberty and civic responsibility, the Tennessee Firearms Association performs many valuable functions that aid the General Assembly and Tennessee’s citizenry and should be commended for leading the battle to protect, restore, and secure our unalienable right to keep and bear arms;”
- “BE IT RESOLVED BY THE SENATE OF THE ONE HUNDRED SIXTH GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE STATE OF TENNESSEE, THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES CONCURRING, that we hereby honor and commend the Tennessee Firearms Association for its meritorious efforts in promoting safe and responsible firearms ownership and defending the right to keep and bear arms in Tennessee; further salute TFA’s Executive Director, John I. Harris, for his astute and dedicated service to the organization and all Tennesseans; and thank these worthy citizens for their ongoing commitment to this noble cause.”
This was not the only such resolution by the General Assembly which acknowledged the historical involvement, work and interest of the Tennessee Firearms Association in firearms issues in Tennessee. A similar House Joint Resolution (HJR1195), which Harwell herself co-sponsored, was passed in 2002. In that resolution, the following acknowledgments by the General Assembly are made:
- “the Tennessee Firearms Association (TFA) is a not-for-profit corporation formed to promote the right to keep and bear arms and to educate Tennessee’s citizenry on the responsible use, ownership and carrying of firearms;”
- “the Tennessee Firearms Association holds that every American is endowed with certain unalienable rights, granted to us by our Creator, and made our birthright by the sacrifices of the men and women who founded this state and country; the TFA further holds that the right to keep and bear arms is one of those unalienable rights, one that our government has no authority to infringe upon or take away;”
- “the mission of the Tennessee Firearms Association is to defend the inviolable right of the individual to keep and bear arms and to promote the responsible use, ownership and carrying of firearms;”
- “the TFA is the only full-time organization supporting the right to keep, bear and arms for Tennesseans;”
- “the Tennessee Firearms Association sponsors an experienced Legislative Action Committee known as TFA-LAC; this excellent Legislative Action Committee works closely with the General Assembly and the executive branch to restore and secure our rights to keep and bear arms;”
- “the Tennessee Firearms Association and TFA-LAC have played an important and essential role in the development and evolution of Tennessee’s handgun carry permit laws;”
- “throughout all its endeavors, TFA staunchly defends the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article I, Section 26 of the Tennessee Constitution;”
- “by defending the most time-honored principles of liberty and civic responsibility, the Tennessee Firearms Association performs many valuable functions for Tennesseans and should be commended for leading the battle to restore and secure our unalienable right to keep and bear arms;”
- “BE IT RESOLVED BY THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES OF THE ONE HUNDRED SECOND GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE STATE OF TENNESSEE, THE SENATE CONCURRING, That we hereby honor and commend the Tennessee Firearms Association for its meritorious efforts in promoting gun safety and defending the right to keep and bear arms in Tennessee; salute TFA’s Executive Director, John I. Harris, for his astute and dedicated service to the organization and all Tennesseans; and thank these worthy citizens for their ongoing commitment to this noble cause.”
Notwithstanding these two resolutions, one of which she co-sponsored and both of which she voted for, Beth Harwell tells Tennesseans in 2012 that the TFA is not an “interested party” on the status of firearms laws in Tennessee. Really? Is it that the TFA and its members have shown no interest? Or, is it that Republican leadership is “uncomfortable” and perhaps even angry with the fact that TFA and its members have not acted like a pet lap dog and begged a little but then just accepted whatever table scraps or bones that the Republican leadership decided unilaterally to toss out?
Assuming she is not delusional or starting to suffer from dementia relative to her prior actions and the almost unanimous votes of the entire General Assembly, perhaps what Beth Harwell really meant to say was that “she was not interested in having TFA participate in these discussions.” That, given her public appearances, faces and comments, sounds much more plausible. Indeed, put in the context of other states by Rep. Debra Maggart and Rep. Gerald McCormick it is quite clear that House Republican leadership did not want to move forward with any 2nd Amendment legislation whatsoever in 2011 or 2012.
Finally, this situation does not exist solely or uniquely at the feet of leadership. It is important to understand that Beth Harwell and for that matter all Republican leadership serve with the support and at the pleasure of their respective caucuses. Perhaps it is time that the citizens of this state start talking to the candidates for office in the November 2012 election cycle about whether they have any “buyer’s remorse” for voting these individuals into leadership, in keeping them there and what are the chances that those candidates would vote for these same leaders again. For Tennessee’s constitutional conservatives, this may be a keep issue to consider in the upcoming election cycle unless of course Tennessee conservative voters think that a “pay to play” General Assembly is best for Tennesseans.
What is on the horizon?
From public statements such as that by Rep. Gerald McCormick that he would rather not have to address firearms issues this year to the actions of Republican Leadership (which apparently the rank and file have been willing to accept) to suppress and discourage 2nd Amendment legislation, it has been expected that both 2011 and 2012 would be less than ideal years for 2nd Amendment interests. Indeed, because the election cycles are every 2 years in Tennessee, politicans are always campaigning to the election cycles never end – they are simply reset.
Republican Leadership, particularly in the House, and consequently it must be concluded that the Republican caucus members who put them in power and retain them in power, have made it clear that they feel that supporting even minimally controversial 2nd Amendment legislation might hurt them financially with Big Business and/or with voters. If so, then until something serious changes in the composition not only of leadership but the caucuses, Tennessee’s firearms owners should not be looking forward in hopes of seeing legislation such as Constitutional Carry, Employee Safe Commute, the repeal of Local Parks Options, reduced or eliminated TICS fees, etc., at any point in the near future.
At this point we must anticipate that absence overwhelming political or constituent demands on leadership, that the plan that they have developed is to “deny and delay” in an effort to avoid any vote whatsoever on these issues – particularly a floor vote. It must be anticipated that the goal at present for leadership is to maneuver so that these bills avoid meaningful floor votes and that they adjourn while they continue to sit rotting in subcommitees like the black holes that they are designed to be.
TFA Chapter meeting with Lt. Col Courtney Rogers
As previously announced Lt. Col. Courtney Rogers was the guest speaker with the TFA Nashville Chapter this week. She has declared that she will be challenging Rep. Debra Maggart (an inner circle member of House Republican Leadership) for District 45. Lt. Col. Rogers told us that she is a 28 year Air Force veteran and that her military service to the country is one of the things that qualifes her for public service. She discussed her belief in the Constitution, its principles and took questions from those in attendance on any topic. It will be interesting to see how this race develops over the next few weeks and whether the anticipated supporters have concluded that its not a question of whether Debra Maggart needs to be replaced – its simply a question of with whom. That whom, we will soon know may be Lt. Col. Rogers.
Once a sitting legislator moves into the arena of “let them eat cake”, at least one of the choices becomes clear.
Congratulations to Bob Pope
Numerous reports from outside and within the General Assembly indicate that our friend, Bob Pope, former gun show promoter, editor and radio talk show host, has finally been offered a state job and that he will start perhaps as early as next week. It may be that Pope’s public arguments a) that there is a “gun show loophole” that needs to be closed; b) that “real property rights” are more important than your right of self-defense of your life and c) that “shall not be infringed” really was intended to be “shall not be unresonably infringed”, have found sufficient grace to either the Governor or someone in the Legislature that they have decided to use tax dollars to put Bob Pope on the payroll.
Certainly this is a reward well deserved for the stance he has taken on Second Amendment issues in the last two years. Frankly, we were almost surprised that he had not gone to work already for Mike McWherter (in the beer distributorship) whom he endorsed for a period of time in 2010 in the Governor’s race but then we recalled that he abandoned McWherter after publicly announcing his support for him and jumped over to Haslam’s call for assistance with gun owners.
The big question now is who hired him and to do what? Is Bob Pope the new “Gun Czar” to help set political policy for the state or the legislature?