Gov. Bill Haslam said today that he did not think that the “horrific” bloodbath in a Connecticut elementary school last week would move Tennesseans to think differently about gun laws. He dismissed any suggestion that he is interested in pushing for any new state-level gun control legislation.
“I think if you look at Tennesseans, they’re fairly comfortable with where our laws are now,” Haslam told reporters. “I think they mainly want us to go focus on what are we going to do bring more jobs to Tennessee and to address education and that’s what you’ll see us talking about.”
The only key piece of gun legislation the Republican governor saw coming from the legislature this year is one that would allow gun owners to keep firearms in their cars, even when those cars are in the parking lots of the employers of the gun owners.
“That’s not the first horrific incident that we’ve had in America, and there’s a recent poll in Tennessee that showed most people would be in favor of letting employees keep their weapons locked in cars on business property,” Haslam said.
The poll, conducted by Vanderbilt University, showed that 53 percent of Tennesseans were in favor of a state law mandating that employers be required by state law to allow their employees to keep guns in their vehicles.
While the poll was taken before the Constitution State’s schoolhouse slaughter, it certainly came after other horrific shootings in the US, including the 12 killings this year in an Aurora, Colorado movie theater and the dozen that were gunned down in 2009 at Fort Hood, a military base in Texas.
Indeed, a Washington Post-ABC News poll taken after the Connecticut shooting shows little change in how Americans feel about gun laws.
[F]ew underlying opinions about gun control have shifted significantly in the immediate aftermath of the latest shooting.
The percentages of Americans supporting stricter gun laws and the relative preference for tougher enforcement over new laws are on par with previous surveys.
Haslam waved away any suggestion of gun and bullet bans in place in countries such as China.
“I think we’re a long way in this country from totally taking away bullets. I can’t imagine that being on a serious agenda on any legislature,” he said.
Haslam said he still believes schools should be able to bar their employees from bringing their gun to work. This is a position that has put him at odds with some in the state legislature, such as Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, although Ramsey has indicated he is open to compromise.
Haslam said he plans to hold a conference on safety and security in schools next month. One topic that Haslam said may be on the table: training teachers to use firearms.
It’s also unclear what might happen with gun laws at the federal level.
President Barack Obama said he wants to seek some stricter gun-control measures in the coming weeks to prevent mass shootings but was mum on details of what those measures might be.
“I don’t know a lot of legislation that I’ve seen would have stopped what happened there,” Haslam said. He added: “I think we’ll have a national discussion.”
Trent Seibert can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, on Twitter(@trentseibert) or at 615-669-9501.