The highest ranking Democrat in the Tennessee House of Representatives, Craig Fitzhugh of Ripley, quoted Thomas Jefferson on the inviolability of property rights during lower-chamber debate on the so-called “guns-in-parking lots” bill Feb. 28. A key facet of what’s constituted by the notion of private property rights is “the right to exclude others,” said Fitzhugh, citing an opinion by the United State’s Supreme Court. House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga, responded that the proposed legislation Fitzhugh and the Democrats oppose, House Bill 118, doesn’t in fact prevent property owners from continuing to ban guns on their property — just that special criminal charges will no longer be applied if the violator is a handgun-carry permit holder. “Decriminalizing conduct is not a taking of rights, it is an extension of rights,” said McCormick. Fitzhugh’s amendment was ultimately thwarted along with a number of others proposed by the Democratic superminority. HB118 passed 72-22 along mostly partisan lines. Having already passed in the Tennessee Senate, it heads now to the governor, who will either sign it, veto it or let it become law without his signature.