Press release from the Tennessee Firearms Association; April 20, 2012:
Let us pause for a moment to consider where we are on the Employee Safe Commute bills as the General Assembly may be entering is last week of session.
There are sometimes at least 2 paths for citizens to collectively petition their government – working with legislators on an “access” model and working on an “accountability” model. Early on, TFA tried the access model with Democratic leadership in the House and learned long ago that access only worked as long as leadership felt they needed your help and assistance to make the right decisions. When leadership had no interest in listening to the citizens or were more interested in interest groups, such as unions or Big Business, the voices of citizens and constitutional standards became less compelling.
Speaker Naifeh got to a point where he and his immediate supporters did not want or need the support of firearms owners, including the TFA. During that time, Republicans were in a minority status and were supportive of the work of TFA to target Democratic leadership and those whom were at that time the “shadow operatives” of leadership who worked to kill bills without recorded floor votes. For example, Speaker Naifeh specifically created the “Constitutional Protections Subcommittee” in the House Judiciary and packed it with the specific purpose to bottle up and defeat firearms related bills without exposing his caucus to recorded votes. Republicans were giddy when TFA targeted legislators, such as Bobby Sands, and helped to defeat him with heavy pressure, reports of his votes and committee comments and even invested in phone banking.
When Republicans had a minority or close margin, TFA’s help and NRA’s help was desired by Republicans who routinely claimed that they were “100%”, “strong” or sometimes just “good” on the 2nd Amendment. For some it was an empty promise because they never understood what the 2nd Amendment really stood to protect. Nevertheless, in time firearms owners and grassroots organizations perhaps in blind hope helped to put Republicans into a majority. However, soon thereafter it was understood that there were serious problems.
For example, in December 2010, a sudden change of scheduling brought on a Republican House caucus vote that disappointingly put Beth Harwell by reportedly a 1 vote margin into the Speaker’s office. Many conservative Republicans knew better and specifically solicited TFA’s assistance to resist Harwell’s selection as Speaker. It is reported that Rep. Casada had the clear lead in votes for Speaker but that significant pressure from newly elected Bill Haslam changed enough minds to change the outcome. Thus, the House was led by a Speaker whose voting record on firearms was for all practical purposes worse that Speaker Naifeh’s “official” voting record (at least in the early years).
Then, 2011 saw the parking lot bill make it to the floor in a “permissive” context that was opposed by TFA and NRA. Firearms owners supported the “Bass” amendment which was offered on the floor and would have restored the bill to a mandate rather than merely a bill offering immunity from civil liability if an employer chose to allow employees to commute. When Bass offered his amendment, Rep. Evans (the sponsor) moved to kill it and got more than 30 House Republicans to go along. When that “tabling” motion failed, however, the bill was sent back to the committee to die for the year. Soon after that, TFA had meetings with House leaders (excluding Harwell). During one of those meetings, Rep. Debra Maggart, a member of House Republican leadership, told TFA that gun owners had no choice but to support the Republicans as the “best friends of gun owners”. When she said that she marginalized TFA’s work and its participation. She took TFA and its support for granted. She also assumed that supporting conservatives (which she apparently equated with incumbent Republicans) meant that TFA would support both leadership and incumbents. She was wrong. TFA will take an active role in purging incumbents in both parties who lack a clear history of consistently supporting 2nd Amendment legislative packages. TFA will do this in primaries and general elections. TFA is not partisan. TFA focuses first on constitutional rights and Republicans get no “presumption” that they are preferable in that regard. Every legislator will have to demonstrate through measurable acts and deeds that they are true conservatives and that they truly do put priority on the protection of constitutional rights or they deserve to be released from further service as soon as possible.
As for the bills at this time, TFA is pushing for votes. TFA is pushing for bringing the bills to the floor either through committee or by a procedural “recall” motion that lets all legislators vote to bring a bill directly to the floor even if it still stuck somewhere in the committee system. Right now, TFA and many of its members are working to document where legislators are on these issues. We are receiving lots of “canned” replies promising support but very little overt, public action from the rank and file members to demand that leadership bring these bills up so that they can be debated and considered on the respective floors.
TFA worked since 1996 to get restaurant carry passed. It did not happen for 14 years but it happened. Many legislators who were there in the beginning were not there in the end. TFA members can and will dedicate the time and money to get this current legislation passed even if it does not pass this year. It must pass because its a change that brings Tennessee closer to the standard that the constitution expects and protects.
At this point, it is clear that the bills have the support of enough individual members in the House and the Senate to become law this year. There is enough time. The bills are ready for floor votes. The only things standing in the way are apparently the promises made by leadership to Big Business or other interests such as have been revealed in the video taped and written statements made by Republican leaders such as Ron Ramsey, Beth Harwell and Gerald McCormick.
If the bills do not get floor votes, recorded votes, TFA has no choice but to place blame. Most of the blame will fall on Republican leadership based on their own statements. However, TFA will also work to educate the voters that the Republican leadership did not exist in a vacuum. Those leaders, just like other elected officials, are to some degree accountable to the rank and file members who select them. Consequently, if these bills do not come to a floor vote in both Houses this year, part of that blame must be considered to lie at the feet of the rank and file members of the Republican caucuses who could have demanded of their leadership that these bills be brought before them on the floor for debate and determination. Indeed, the evidence is that the Rules of procedure in both Houses allow the “recall” votes so that the members can in fact circumvent stalling antics by leadership in cases just such as this. The question is does the oath of office mean enough to a sufficient number of these caucus members to use their collective voices against their own leaders to demand that these issues be brought to the floor consideration. By next weekend, we should know the answer and by November, we should be prepared to reward or punish accordingly.