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MTSU Poll: Most Tennesseans for ‘Guns in Parking Lots’

Press release from the MTSU Survey Group; February 28, 2013:

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — A majority of Tennesseans support a key provision of the “guns in trunks” measure set for consideration today in the state House of Representatives, but opinions about other types of firearm restrictions remain mixed, the latest MTSU Poll indicates.

“Of the gun control measures the poll asked about, allowing handgun permit holders to store guns in cars parked at work stood out as the only one that attracted majority support among Tennesseans,” said Dr. Ken Blake, director of the poll at Middle Tennessee State University.

“The poll found an even divide between those who want to toughen gun laws or keep them as they are and between those who favor and oppose banning high-capacity ammunition magazines,” Blake said. “Meanwhile, more Tennesseans favor than oppose banning so-called ‘assault-style weapons,’ and more oppose than favor increasing the number of teachers and school officials carrying guns in schools. Finally, a large majority support requiring background checks for people who buy guns in private sales or at gun shows.”

According to the poll, a 58 percent majority of Tennesseans favor a law allowing “handgun concealed-carry permit holders in the state of Tennessee to keep handguns in cars parked in their employers’ parking lots while at work.” Only 33 percent say they oppose such a law, and the rest don’t know or refuse to answer. It should be noted that the question asked about concealed-carry permit holders, while handgun permits in Tennessee allow guns to be carried openly or concealed.

Fitzhugh Seeks Compromise Through Amendments on ‘Guns in Parking Lots’

Press release from the Tennessee House Democratic Caucus; February 27, 2013:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – House Democratic Leader Craig Fitzhugh was joined today by members of the House Democratic Caucus at a press conference to discuss upcoming amendments to HB118, the ‘Guns in Parking Lots’ bill sponsored by Rep. Faison in the House and Speaker Ramsey in the Senate.

“We know the majority wants to pass this bill and pass it quickly,” said Leader Fitzhugh. “It’s made a mad dash through the Senate and the House, in some cases coming out of committee in less than six minutes. That’s why we’re here today previewing the amendments and laying out our concerns.”

Leader Fitzhugh has introduced seven amendments to the bill. These amendments would protect private property rights and promote public safety while still preserving the rights of handgun permit holders to carry their firearms with them.

  • Amendment 7—Posting – Amendment rewrites the bill. Under this amendment, handgun carry permit holders are permitted to carry their gun anywhere in the state, unless otherwise posted.
  • Amendment 8—Kyle Amendment – Directs the department of safety to develop a procedure whereby businesses may seek a waiver from this bill.
  • Amendment 9 – Classifies as “verbal assault” an altercation in which a person makes reference to a gun stored in a car on or near the parking area of the property. This would be a class E felony if a gun is not subsequently found in the referenced vehicle and a class D felony if a gun is subsequently found in the referenced vehicle.
  • Amendment 10 – States that long-term parking areas—defined here as a parking lot designed for cars to be left for 36 or more hours—are not subject to this bill and instead preserves the right of the property owner to post.
  • Amendment number 11—Education – Exempts elementary schools, colleges and universities, vocational and technology centers, pre-schools and daycares from the bill.
  • Amendment 12—People – Exempts state prisons, local jails, alcohol and drug treatment centers, mental health institutions, hospitals and nursing homes from the bill.
  • Amendment 13—Jobs – Exempts unemployment offices from the bill.

“We are very concerned with the preoccupation the majority party has with guns,” said Leader Fitzhugh. “We still have high unemployment, a huge decision looming on health care and radical changes coming left and right to our education system, yet the majority party has chosen to make this their top priority and marquee issue. There is a fundamental disconnect between the majority party and the people of Tennessee.”

Maggart: 2nd Amendment, Property Rights Equally Important

Statement from State Rep. Debra Maggart, R-Hendersonville; July 23, 2012: 

See WWW.DEFENDMAGGART.COM for an important message from Debra.

Friends,

Over the past few months, a national second amendment rights group, an organization of which I am a lifetime member, has begun a negative campaign against me in the name of the Second Amendment and my opponent.

This attack against me is based on false information in an effort to bully your elected officials and trample your other Constitutional rights.

During this past General Assembly, a bill came before us related to individuals being able to store their gun in their car. I have a 100% voting record on the Second Amendment and support this idea. There were several problems with this bill and we reached out to this group to try to work the kinks out.

My main concern was that this bill as introduced would have mandated what individuals, not just businesses, must do or allow with their property. I hear complaints every day about Federal Government mandates, yet one was almost forced on you by the state if this group would have gotten their way.

Since this group was not willing to work with us, we suggested that we study the legislation over the summer to see how we could make this a better bill for all Tennesseans. Most Members of the General Assembly would like a bill that respects property rights as well as second amendment rights, as both of these are equally important. Let me be clear. I did not vote against this bill, contrary to what you have been told. You can see for yourself by going to www.capitol.tn.gov and looking at the vote for this piece of legislation.

As a member of House Leadership, blame has been placed at my feet for an attempt at thoughtful governing. We are sent to Nashville to represent you. It is my aim to protect all of your rights, not just the one that this second amendment rights group is promoting.

I hope you will contact me if you have specific questions about this matter that I can resolve. Now that you know the truth, I would appreciate your vote.

Debra

A TFA History Lesson on Guns-in-Lots

Press release from the Tennessee Firearms Association; April 26, 2012:

House Leadership and Republican Caucus using misleading statements for cover to distract public from their true motives.

Roll Back History…

First, this bill has been pending and debated in the legislature since at least 2009. That is a period of four years.

April 27, 2011. The 2011 version of a Safe Commute law was scheduled for a floor vote. It was carried by Republican Joshua Evans. It was not endorsed by NRA or TFA at the time. It was permissive. It did not require employers to allow safe storage. What it did was gave civil immunity to those employers who voluntarily allowed it. On the House Floor, Rep. Bass moved to make the bill mandatory. When he did, Rep. Evans moved to “table” the proposed amendment which is a kind way of testing the votes to defeat it. Of those voting to kill the Bass amendment, 33 were Republicans (in bold):

HB2021 by Evans – FLOOR VOTE: LAY ON THE TABLE MOTION TO ADOPT AMENDMENT # 2 BY Bass PASSAGE ON THIRD CONSIDERATION 4/27/2011

Failed
Ayes………………………………………..35
Noes………………………………………..51
Present and not voting…………………..5

Representatives voting aye were: Brooks H, Brooks K, Butt, Carr, Casada, Coley, Dennis, Dunn, Eldridge, Ford, Harrison, Haynes, Hurley, Keisling, Kernell, Lundberg, Marsh, Matlock, McCormick, McManus, Miller D, Montgomery, Odom, Powers, Ramsey, Roach, Sargent, Sexton, Shipley, Sparks, Weaver, Williams R, Wirgau, Womick, Madam Speaker Harwell — 35.

Representatives voting no were: Alexander, Armstrong, Bass, Brown, Camper, Cobb, Cooper, Curtiss, Dean, DeBerry J, Favors, Fitzhugh, Floyd, Forgety, Gotto, Halford, Hardaway, Harmon, Hensley, Holt, Johnson C, Johnson P, Jones, Lollar, Matheny, McDaniel, McDonald, Miller L, Moore, Naifeh, Niceley, Parkinson, Pitts, Pody, Rich, Richardson, Sanderson, Shaw, Shepard, Sontany, Stewart, Swann, Tidwell, Tindell, Todd, Towns, Turner J, Turner M, Watson, Williams K, Windle — 51.

Representatives present and not voting were: Campbell, Faison, Gilmore, Hill, Ragan — 5.

To be fair, many of those Republicans who voted to kill the NRA and TFA endorsed “Bass amendment” later claimed that they did not know what they were voting on – they merely followed the “leader” of the legislation and did what he wanted. Many later denied knowing that they were voting against the NRA. What is it Pelosi said, “we have to pass it before we will know what is in it….” Their job is to make and cast knowing and intelligent votes. Blindly following a leader is nothing but partisanship allegiance – not stewardship.

In response to the backlash from the anti-2nd Amendment stunt on the House floor last year, Rep. Gerald McCormick tried to “appease”, some might say trick, constitutional conservatives. Shortly thereafter, McCormick issued the following press release on July 13, 2011, in which he announced the creation of the House “Republican Caucus Firearms Issues Task Force” That letter provided (with some emphasis added)

Fellow Caucus Members:
I hope that this letter finds you well. I am very proud of the great things we accomplished together during this past legislative session, and confident that we will continue that positive momentum when we return in January. In order to accomplish that goal, it is vital that we devote time during recess to study important issues that impact all those that live across our great state.

With that in mind, I am writing this letter to advise you that I am appointing a Republican Caucus Firearms Issues Task Force. The rights guaranteed by the Second Amendment are sacred to many citizens, and we must ensure we craft responsible legislation to protect those rights. This task force will be responsible for studying current state laws to identify if any changes may need to be made. In addition, it will meet with outside groups to gain a better understanding of these issues. The task force will report back to members of the Republican Caucus with results of their study.

The Republican Caucus Firearms Issues Task Force will consist of the following members:
Rep. Curry Todd, Chairman
Speaker Pro Tempore Judd Matheny
Rep. Joshua Evans
Rep. Andy Holt
Rep. Barrett Rich
Rep. Glen Casada
Rep. John Forgety

Please feel free to contact members of this task force if you have any additional questions about this important issue.

Insofar as can be determined, no other such taskforce was announced by House Leadership. What is important however is that this task force was later canceled by McCormick and then revived when Rep. Matheny said he would go forward with it. It’s meetings were not publicly announced and to our knowledge there was only 1 meeting with about 3 of the public in attendance. Nothing was studied. The meeting was brief. There has been no public report of the meeting. There was clearly no legislative agenda – other than stall and avoid – by the House Republican leadership or caucus that followed.

The path of House leadership and sadly Senate leadership this year has been to preclude full public hearings and floor votes on these issues. The reason is singular. They know that the rank and file members support and will pass this legislation. The leadership cannot allow that. We can infer that leadership’s resistence is most probably due to financial support and reciprocal commitments to Big Business.

In 2012, this bill has been a news topic almost constantly. It has been hotly debated in every committee charged with considering it on the merits. On April 25, 2012, the bill was once again a hot topic. Channel 5 news interviewed McCormick. He said the 2nd Amendment is an important issue and needs to be balanced against property rights. He claimed, after a house calendar committee on which he served, voted to kill the bill by sending it to a non-existent “summer study” that it needed to be taken seriously. He did not tell the reporter that his caucus had met over the weekend and allegedly voted to avoid any recorded vote on this legislation. [That pronouncement however did not align well with emails and verbal assurances from many of the individual Republican caucus member.] He did not tell the reporter that he had established a task force within the caucus last year to study firearms issues – including this one – or that the task force was a mere sham. He did not tell the reporter of the extensive history of debate, testimony and study on this bill and sadly the reporter did not have either the knowledge or willingness to question him on his misleading statements. Sadly, McCormick’s statements are too similar to the statements surrounding the Christmas tree theft in the “Grinch Who Stole Christmas” when the Grinch was caught and needed to offer an excuse – even one devoid of the truth:

The Grinch had been caught by this tiny Who daughter who’d got out of bed for a cup of cold water.

She stared at the Grinch and said “Cindy-Lou Who: Santy Claus, why? Why are you taking our Christmas tree? WHY?”

But, you know, that old Grinch was so smart and so slick. He thought up a lie, he thought it up quick!

Watch the Channel 5 video — if its still available.

The simple fact is that Republican leadership has represented to the voters that the “members” are opposed to the bill as it now exists because it is too broad. Really? If that is the case, bring it to the floor and let the members themselves amend it and pass it. Leadership will refuse to do that because they know with almost certainty that the rank and file members do support the bill and will enact it largely as is. The refusal of leadership to let this bill see the light of day on the respective floors for debate, amendment or votes tells the public volumes regarding the statements that have been made concerning where the legislators – all of them – are on this bill and who really are anti-2nd Amendment.

TFA: GOP Leadership Stalling on Guns-in-Lots Legislation

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.

 

TFA Still Hunting Victory in Legislative Fight Over Gun Bills

Newsletter from the Tennessee Firearms Association; April 9, 2012:

HB3560 – On Calendar for Tuesday, April 10

The House version of the Employee Safe Commute bill (HB3560) and its companion HB3559 are on calendar for Tuesday, April 10, at 8:00 am CST in the House Employee and Consumer Affairs committee. We are expecting to see the bill pushed through the subcommittee on a voice vote. That is what we are told to expect but the committee may do otherwise.

We had been told that the bill would then be heard in the full committee of House Employee and Consumer Affairs on the same day at 10:30 am. However, some question has arisen regarding whether the rules have been suspended already so that this can be done or whether the standard 48 hour notice would be required. TFA and NRA have asked Committee Chair Jimmy Eldridge to move on the House Floor tonight to suspend the rules so that these bills can both be heard tomorrow. If we are successful in having that motion made by Rep. Eldridge, the floor vote tonight could shed light on the strength of the bills once they get to the floor.

Senate Bill – SB3002

Last Thursday, news reports surfaced quoting Speaker Beth Harwell that she had been told by Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey that the bill (SB3002) on the Employee Safe Commute issue is already “dead” in the Senate. That was a telling and some might say unexpected disclosure from “Mt. Olympus” since the bill had passed Senate Judiciary on March 27 on a vote of 6 to 1 with 2 present and not voting (“Obama legislating”). The bill should have been scheduled already to be heard in Senate Calendar and Rules to be calendared for the Senate floor, but it is no where to be found on an upcoming calendar.

Apparently, either Lt. Gov. Ramsey expected the bill to see troubled waters in the Calendar and Rules committee and/or he knew that someone with enough power to do so was working to stop the bill in its tracks on the Senate side. Now who, one might ask, would be up to that?

Some might cast a brief glance at Lt. Gov. Ramsey himself. After all, the Lt. Gov. was videoed by TNReport.com recently voicing his objections to including Tennessee’s hunters in the Senate version of the bill even though that issue was considered, debated and soundly adopted by the Senate Judiciary which is charged by Lt. Gov. Ramsey with vetting such issues. Furthermore, declaring “death” over a singular amendment would be premature since almost every senator learns quickly that such amendments can be modified or removed by the full Senate on the floor. There could be no shortage of senators whom Lt. Gov. Ramsey could have called upon to make or second such a motion to address the inclusion of licensed hunters in the Senate bill. Perhaps, Speaker Harwell was confused.

Indeed, we have but to look back to the comments made during the 2010 campaign cycle (for Governor) to see that Lt. Gov. Ramsey has a long history of representing to constituents that he supports this type of legislation. Consider this email extract from an email account that was used during the primaries for governor:

From: “Ron Ramsey” <ron@teamronramsey.com>

Sent: Tuesday, [omitted], 2010

To: [omitted]

Subject: Re: HB 3141 & SB 3009

 

Dear [omitted],

I support the bill requiring businesses to allow employees with

handgun-carry permits to take their guns onto the company’s parking

lot if the gun is left in the employee’s locked car. . Permit-holding

citizens are some of our safest, most responsible citizens and their

constitutional rights should not expire at the entrance to a parking

lot. Asking a citizen to give up his or her safety and constitutional

rights en route from home to work is an unreasonable burden. Our

state recently saw the most brutal torture-slaying in Tennessee

history – and it began with a carjacking. I cannot in good conscience

ask law-abiding men and women to give up their right to self-defense

in the workplace or anywhere else.

Thank you,

Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey

[emphasis added]. So, we cannot reasonably put the blame for the death of the Senate bill on the Lt. Gov.’s desk whom himself proclaims that it is an “unreasonable burden” to demand that people who have carry permits commute without the option of determining whether they will be able to provide for their own self-defense. Unreasonable burdens should be swiftly dispatched by reasonable legislators particularly which such burdens implicate risks to personal safety.

So the question, is Who? Who, in the Senate has enough power, control and influence that they could prematurely declare legislation such as this dead before it ever gets to the floor? Or, was it simply a statement by Speaker Harwell that was perhaps delusional or otherwise completely devoid of factual basis?

Its a mystery, or was it. The next few days and weeks will not only tell but will impact legislative ratings and races in the coming months.

TFA: GOP Willing to Let Gun Rights be ‘Bargained, Sold’ by Leadership

Newsletter from the Tennessee Firearms Association; April 9, 2012:

What is wrong with this picture?

For years the Republicans were in the minority in state Government. That had been the case largely since the Civil War. In that minority status, they would champion almost any conservative, grassroots topic including lower taxes, smaller government, right to life, strong immigration standards, education reform and others. Three specific areas claimed as the principle domain of Republicans while they were in the minority were the Bible, the Constitution and the 2nd Amendment. God, Country and Guns – in that order.

Now, keep in mind that political parties in the minority seldom are flush with money from Big Business, Big Insurance and Big Medicine because, frankly, those interests are not aligned with core constitutional, Biblical or conservative issues. Those interests, one may infer, invest them time and money in legislative races for one reason – to purchase the laws and regulations that most benefit their business interests and in some instances the personal interests of a handful in charge at the very top. The “Biggies” do not have the right to vote. However, the “Biggies” do have the money that it takes to buy what votes cannot deliver – access to legislators and the commitment from legislators to do whatever the “Biggies” require. Votes to not overload campaign accounts (particularly at the leadership level). Votes do not pay for trips or vacations disguised as “learning” trips. Votes do not purchase support from peers in the legislature when its time to decide on leaders. Money from the “Biggies” either facilitate or control these activities.

We have seen this drama play out over the last 2 years in the battle over the right of self-defense versus what the “Biggies” have called their “real property rights.” As an aside, ask yourself when is the last time the “Biggies” spent this much time advocating for laws that primarily protected the real property rights of homeowner/voters?

The Employee Safe Commute law is law in at least 16 states. It has been filed as legislation in at least the last 4 legislative years and has been a topic of discussion for at least 10 years. Lt. Gov. Ramsey himself promised TFA in 2010 that “they” would pass the Employee Safe Commute law in 2011 if TFA “stood down” so that the Republicans could work on other issues since they now had “the power” that comes with majority status.

Perhaps Lt. Gov. Ramsey spoke before he knew to what extent the “Biggies” seriously opposed to the safe commute of their employees to and from work. As the minions of the “Biggies” have plied their trade in the halls of the Legislature (although probably more commonly at expensive “functions” and private events outside of the openness of the cameras in the halls and chambers of the legislature), we have seen an increasing resistance from Republicans who love to tought themselves as “good” on the 2nd Amendment. Perhaps what they meant was that they were “good” on the 2nd Amendment so long as the “Biggies” and their money were not too opposed to the idea.

This past week, for example, it is reported that several in leadership, including Lt. Gov. Ramsey and Sen. Ketron were quite upset with the fact that the Senate Judiciary had voted favorably on SB3002 (by Faulk). That report, from several sources, might be confirmed by 2 additional facts. First, Lt. Gov. Ramsey telling TNReport.com that he opposed the amendment by Sen. Campfield and approved by the Senate Judiciary that hunters could be trusted to securely store their hunting firearms in their personal vehicles during those times when they might want to hunt before or after work (like the present turkey season). That should make Tennessee’s licensed hunters feel like they have a strong friend right there, yes sir. The second hint was another a video taped comment by Speaker Beth Harwell that the parking lot bill is dead according to statements made to her by Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey.

It was interesting that this admission by Harwell came at the end of the week where reports were released from House members that the “Bass” version of the Employee Safe Commute bill would be shotgunned through a House subcommittee and full committee on Tuesday of this week. Perhaps that was allowed by Leadership once it was determined that the Senate version was “dead” and that therefore allowing the House version of the bill to move would be polticially useful for some legislators in an election year and that no harm could come from allowing an already dead Senate bill to move forward pointlessly in a House committee.

What the last 2 years have shown is that Republican leadership is not committed to protecting the 2nd Amendment rights of citizens if “Big Business” dangles the money that it controls. What the last 2 years are also showing is that too many caucus members are willing to let 2nd Amendment rights be bargained and sold by Leadership when convenient or politically necessary. Since the voters will not out spend the “Biggies”, voters must use what they have – the vote – the deal with those who have misplaced priorities to money rather than the Constitutional rights of citizens.

Call to Action – NOW!

Please call your legislators. Their office numbers and email addresses are listed on the House and Senate directories which also contain lookup tools to find your specific legislators.

We also still have the TFA Action Center email campaign operational. With it you can send an email to your House member, your Senate member, each member of each involved Committee and the Governor. Note: If you use the TFA Action Center campaign, please edit the subject and body of the message to customize it for your personal use. It will send it to your specific legislators based on your street address.

It is time to flood the offices of the legislature with our demands. Even if you have already sent a message or made a call, the work to protect our rights and remove infringements sometimes requires that we do more than a single email or phone call.

Also, these events make it important that we raise funds for the TFA PAC so that we can help to financially support not only the campaigns of those who have stood firm, particularly against the mandates of leadership, but also to support those who would challenge these “conservatives in name only” during election cycles. As with Speaker Naifeh, we might not defeat Speaker Harwell in an election but we can certainly defeat enough of those in the caucus who would return her to power.

The TFA website has been updated so that you can make your PAC contributions online and on an automatically recurring basis. We do not anticipate that we will raise the money that Federal Express, Brigestone, Nissan and others have invested to infringe your rights. We do know, however, that we can raise money to defeat some of those rank and file members who have shown a willingness to support the House Republican leadership that are working non-stop to appease Big Business and destroy your rights. It is how we stopped Jimmy Naifeh and it is how we can stop those legislators who are willing to ignore your 2nd Amendment rights whenever the green cash of Big Business is dangled like a carrot ahead of them.

Faulk Refining Guns-in-Lots Bill

Gov. Bill Haslam told reporters Wednesday that a long-gestating guns-in-lots proposal would “find a lot more favor” with his administration if it more closely resembled similar legislation in Georgia.

Sen. Mike Faulk’s SB3002 would prohibit employers from enacting policies that ban workers from storing firearms in their cars on company lots. The Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday delayed action after Faulk referred to a few tweaks he’d be making to the bill.

A companion bill, SB2992, that would prohibit “employment discrimination based on an applicant or current employee’s ownership, storage, transportation or posession of a firearm.” The Senate’s commerce committee delayed action on the legislation Tuesday and it is still awaiting a vote in a House subcommittee.

Faulk told TNReport Wednesday that amendments were finished, but hadn’t been filed.

“Both bills are pared back to cover gun permit carry holders only, so it isn’t nearly as broad in scope as the original bill,” he said. “I believe the second amendment exempts nuclear facilities. Those are the only two I’ve seen, and at this point, the only two I expect to file.”

Representatives from the state attorney general’s office appeared before the committee Tuesday to present the AG’s opinion, stating that the legislation is constitutionally defensible.

“While there is limited case law on this issue and a difference of opinion among commentators, two courts in other jurisdictions have upheld bills similar to SB3002 against constitutional challenges,” the opinion stated.

In Georgia, a similar law contains multiple exceptions, including one allowing for such prohibitions in cases where the employer is also the property owner. The long list of exemptions in the law has lead some to question its true effect.

The Tennessee Firearms Association, which has been a thorn in the side of Republicans throughout the conservative-on-conservative debate, released a statement Wednesday suggesting that further delays and changes to the legislation could lead firearm owners to oppose the bill completely. The release called Faulk’s amendments “nothing but appeasement by these Republican leaders to the “Golden Goose” of corporate money.”

Told of the TFA’s comments, Faulk said he hadn’t seen the comments.

“But, if they’ve not seen my amendments, I would say that’s a little premature,” he said.

Guns-in-Parking-Lots Foes Speak Their Piece

Two Senate committees delayed action Tuesday afternoon on legislation aimed at allowing employees to store legally owned firearms in their cars on company parking lots.

After hearing testimony from proponents of the idea two weeks ago, the Senate’s Commerce and Judiciary committees hosted its opponents on Tuesday.

In the Commerce and Agriculture Committee, legislators are considering SB2992, which would prohibit “employment discrimination” based on a person’s “ownership, storage, transportation or possession of a firearm.” Its companion in the Judiciary Committee, SB3002, would prevent companies from banning the storage of guns in employees’ cars on their lots.

The legislation has brought about some friendly fire between gun owners and business interests, two groups that are traditionally pillars of the GOP constituency.

Both committees received a parade of business and university representatives opposing the bills on the grounds that it would impede their private property rights and diminish their ability to ensure the safety of employees and students.

Among those testifying before the committees were representatives from FedEx, Volkswagen and Bridgestone and the presidents of Belmont and Trevecca Nazarene universities, as well as Vanderbilt University’s police chief. In the Judiciary committee, so many individuals had come to testify in opposition to the bill that, when time ran out, committee chair Sen. Mae Beavers asked the remaining dissenters to stand up so they could at least be seen. Around half of the room rose to their feet.

Belmont University president Bob Fisher addressed the Commerce committee and said such legislation would introduce firearms where they haven’t been for years.

“In 12 years, I know of no shots ever fired on our campus,” he said. “There was one armed robbery, there was a gun drawn once in 12 years that I know of. And I want to keep it that way.”

In concluding his statement, he said, “I simply cannot logically connect how it could be any safer with untrained students or untrained employees having easy access to firearms.”

Nashville attorney and chairman of the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce and Industry Bill Ozier also spoke. He said he is often called upon by businesses before they fire or bring disciplinary action on an employee. He said the discrimination bill would create a new protected class of employees.

“Because of the wide range of employment discrimination laws – both federal laws and state laws – that most of these employers are subject to, the first thing we do when I get the call is to go down the list and say, ‘Do they fall in any of these protected categories,” Ozier said. “This bill would create another box for those employees to check.”

The testimony gave way to a lengthy back-and-forth between legislators and the bill’s opponents.

Sen. Mike Faulk, R-Church Hill, who is sponsoring both bills, challenged Ozier and others with hypothetical situations involving other objects an employee might keep in the car, such as a Bible. He also pressed them on their concern for employee safety on their way to and from work.

“Do you have any care for the safety of your employees after they leave your premises?” he said. “Or when they leave their home and before they get to your premises coming to work?”

Republican Sens. Beavers and Delores Gresham also raised the question of an employer’s liability in a case where an employee – who has been banned from keeping a firearm in his car – is attacked and injured in the company parking lot.

In the Judiciary committee, though the bill was technically different, many of the arguments were the same, revolving around the tension between the rights of private property owners and those of gun owners.

Mark Hogan, vice president of security for FedEx, said the company believes an employer’s right to decide what is allowed on its property trumps an individual’s right to carry a firearm onto that property. He repeated a common theme expressed throughout the hearings, that allowing guns in parking lots adds volatility to possible confrontations.

“FedEx should be allowed to continue to implement policies that are designed to protect our employees from irrational or heat-of-the-moment actions by their co-workers,” he said. “Allowing employees to have near, immediate access to firearms, at work, creates an element of risk that is unacceptable.”

Trevecca Nazarene University president Daniel Boone said that university security officials currently know who is supposed to have a gun on campus. If passed, he said, the bill would make it more difficult for security officials to make that determination and make it harder for them to ensure the safety of the student body.

Knoxville Republican Sen. Stacey Campfield presented the panel with a number of questions about the rights of property owners, including that of an employer’s liability in certain situations. Among them was the prospect of employers reserving the right to search a car on their lot. Ozier acknowledged the difference between a customer and employee in such a situation but said that, ultimately, parking on a company lot is a privilege, not a right, and that by parking on a company lot, an employee implicitly submits to the rules set by the employer.

Sen. Mike Bell, R-Riceville, asked Hogan if FedEx, which has property across the country, had encountered problems in any states that allow employees to store guns in their cars on company lots. Hogan said that he did not know of any problems in those states, but that FedEx had opposed those laws as well.

Governor Shooting for Narrowed Scope of Guns-in-Parking-Lots Legislation

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam told reporters Wednesday that he expects to see “guns in parking lots” legislation on his desk this session, though he would like to see it altered before it gets there.

A bill brought by Sen. Mike Faulk, R-Church Hill, would require employers and landowners to allow workers to store legally owned firearms in their cars on company parking lots. The bill would apply to private businesses as well as public institutions and would cover all gun owners, as opposed to just those with handgun carry permits.

Haslam said the bill, as currently written, is too broad, and that he’s working to find a balance between the concerns of gun rights advocates and business associations. He did not say, however, what specific changes he’d like to see made to the legislation.

“We felt like it was overly broad in terms of it covered all parking lots, everywhere, whether it was at a school or other things,” he said. “I don’t know that I’ve gotten to the specific level of saying and what should be out. I haven’t done the hard work of thinking through all the different circumstances.”

While lawmakers attempt to rein in the bill, which Haslam, Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey and House Speaker Beth Harwell have characterized as overly broad, the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce says the plan in any form would shoot holes in its property rights.

“I still don’t know how you can take away the private property rights of individuals in the name of the 2nd Amendment or the right to bear arms,” said Deborah Woolley, chamber president. “Both rights have to be protected, and telling someone they can’t bring their weapon on my property, it doesn’t take away a right to bear an arm. It means they can’t bring it on my property.”

The Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday heard testimony from fans of the bill, who argued that, when a company’s gun-free policy includes workers’ cars, it impedes on their own property rights and their right to self-defense.

Sam Cooper, a FedEx employee from Memphis, told the committee that workers don’t need a firearm at work, but rather on their commute to and from the workplace. By banning guns in parking lots, he argued, companies effectively prevent workers from leaving their homes with a legally owned firearm.

“When my employer, or any employer that bans legal storage of legal firearm, says to me, or anybody, ‘you can’t have it in the parking lot,’ they’ve essentially extended their property rights all the way to my front door,” he said.

West Tennessee Firearms Association Board Member Richard Archie said his daughter picks up her child on the way home from work. Without the ability to carry a weapon in her car, he said, she is left defenseless if anything should anything go wrong.

“If she has a flat tire on the way there on (U.S.) 412, coming back, we’ve turned her loose to the wolves of the world,” he said.

NRA lobbyist Heidi Keesling and Shelby County small-business owner Kenny Crenshaw also appeared before the committee in support of the bill. Keesling said another goal of the legislation is to create more uniformity amongst various states, which have different laws governing where gun owners can take and store their firearms.

In response to the testimony, Sen. Beverly Marrero said she routinely drives about Memphis – which is among the most dangerous cities in the country – without a firearm or concern for her safety.

“I drive around in Memphis all the time. I’m able to drive around all hours of the day and night, all over Memphis. I don’t have a gun. Don’t carry one in my car. I feel relatively safe,” said the 73-year-old Shelby County Democrat. “It seems to me that gentlemen seem to me more afraid to drive around at night in Memphis, than women. Maybe we should talk to y’all a little bit more.”

The committee will hear testimony from opponents of the measure, including the Chamber of Commerce, on March 6 before taking any action on the bill.

 

Andrea Zelinski contributed to this report