Rep. Debra Maggart wants to set the record straight that she has a “100 percent” voting record on Second-Amendment rights legislation despite criticism that she worked behind the scenes to kill key guns bills.
Maggart, a high-ranking Republican leader who is in the middle of a heated election in Sumner County, took her message to the web in a video Monday saying the gun lobby has been trying to “bully” her and other lawmakers into passing bills that violate the property rights of business owners.
However, Maggart’s opponent in the GOP primary race, retired Air Force Lt. Col. Courtney Rogers, as well as the Tennessee Second Amendment organization that’s been so critical of Maggart, quickly shot back.
The only reason the incumbent lawmaker can claim she’s never voted against gun-rights legislation, they said, is that she and other House and Senate Republican leaders maneuvered to thwart floor debate on the so-called “Safe Commute” guns-in-parking-lots bill. They did that so they could avoid publicly taking a stand on the question of where an employer’s rights end and a worker’s begin, Maggart’s critics contend.
“Everybody who spends anytime in the Legislature knows that nothing happens that leadership doesn’t sanction, so that bill didn’t get out of committee,” said Jeff Hartline, campaign manager to Rogers who is challenging the House Republican Caucus leader in the Aug. 2 primary election.
Blame for the legislation’s demise — and for Tennessee voters not getting an opportunity to see where their elected representatives stand on the matter — “has to be laid at (Maggart’s) feet,” Hartline said.
In the ad from the Maggart campaign, the Hendersonville Republican defends her role in working against the gun rights bills. Second Amendment advocates poured at least $75,000 through the end of June into the campaign to unseat her from her Sumner County district. “This attack against me is based on false information in an effort to bully your elected officials and trample your other constitutional rights,” Maggart said during the nearly two-minute video.
Maggart described the House GOP’s political decision to terminate the possibility of floor discussion on the guns-in-lots legislation as an act of “thoughtful governing.”
“It is my aim to protect all of your rights, not just the one that the Second Amendment rights group is promoting,” said Maggart.
In the video, Maggart noted that lawmakers agreed to study the legislation over the summer. However, there’s been no effort on Capitol Hill to schedule any sort of committee to further examine the bill, according to House Speaker Beth Harwell’s office.
Maggart is plainly “misrepresenting to the public what ‘summer study’ means,” said John Harris, executive director of the Tennessee Firearms Association.
“Telling people ‘we’re studying this’ is just lying to them,” said Harris, a prominent critic of the legislative GOP leadership’s handling of the issue. “She killed it and has no intention on bringing it back up.”
Hartline concurred: “If that bill had come to the House floor, it would have passed overwhelmingly. Everybody knows it. So the game was, it can’t make it to the floor.”
For their part, the Tennessee House Democratic Caucus actually took credit for driving the final nail in the guns-in-lots legislation’s coffin for the year. During a press conference just after the Legislature adjourned, minority-party caucus chairman Mike Turner said Democratic leaders “interceded” with the House sponsor of the bill, Rep. Eddie Bass, D-Prospect, and asked that he not try to bring the matter to the House floor, which was a possibility he’d left open right up until the very end of the session.