Press Releases

TFA: Tone of Legislature in Respect to Gun Rights has Changed Since Gaining the Majority

Press release from Tennessee Firearms Association; April 11, 2012:

Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey has a long history of supporting 2nd Amendment issues from his official voting record to date. Of course, there are lots of things that transpire during the brief life of legislation which can derail it without a vote and those things seldom leave a paper trail when they arise in the back offices of the Legislature or during handshakes with big contributors. Certainly, it has been reported recently by non other than Speaker Harwell that Lt. Gov. Ramsey has told her that the Employee Safe Commute bill is “dead” in the Senate this year. [Of course, its not really dead particularly if Lt. Gov. Ramsey did not want it dead. He could use, for one example, Senate Rule 63 to bring the bill directly to the Senate floor for a vote as early as Thursday of this week if he wanted to pass it into law. He also has plenty of time to push it through the remaining one (1) committee and to the floor as early as next week if he wanted that done. Sort of like Pharaoh of Egypt in the Ten Commandments – “so let it be written, so let it be done.”]

Speaker Beth Harwell, despite her claims to the contrary, has never been even remotely viewed as a friend of firearms owners in Tennessee. To the contrary, her history was so clear that TFA actually worked against her selection by House Republicans as the Speaker but TFA’s efforts were overshadowed by “forces” that those House Republicans apparently felt were more compelling than Constitutional concerns.

Nevertheless, in years gone by, primarily those years when the respective Republican caucuses were in a minority position in the Legislature, the Republican caucuses in generally represented themselves as being soundly pro-2nd Amendment albeit with a few acknowledged “bad apples” in the mix. The caucuses generally concede, unlike the delusional claim of Harwell on the 2nd Amendment issue, that they are seldom 100% on any issue.

While Lt. Gov. Ramsey oversaw the Senate in the 106th General Assembly in 2009-2010 and the House was under the leadership of Speaker Kent Williams, who caucused as a Republican, the General Assembly passed the restaurant carry law and the parks law (less than was required but nonetheless a “small step”) and in doing overcame 2 vetos by Governor Bredesen. That willingness to do the veto override twice with a Republican controlled General Assembly evidenced a willingness of those in the Legislature to tell a Democrat Governor, “no, we really meant it when we passed this law.”

The 107th General Assembly comes along and things change. What changed? Two things of note. First, the Republican House majority rose to 64 which meant that they could do whatever the Republican House caucus wanted. Sadly, they put an anti-2nd Amendment member in the Speaker’s office. Frankly, at least Speaker Williams would truly vote with 2nd Amendment issues which was better in that regard. Second, a Republican became Governor.

So, why has the tone of the General Assembly changed since 2010 with respect to 2nd Amendment issues? Perhaps, we should look at the office of Governor for some insight. Some have said that Haslam is one of the most powerful Governors Tennessee has had in recent memory – perhaps since Ray Blanton. Why? Its not because of military success or hard fought tenure in state public office. No, he is powerful because he has the Blue Stocking money of independent wealth as well as “big money” Republicans behind him – folks like Baker, Alexander, Corker, Frist, and others who are all known, in part, so well for their support (or more candidly lack thereof) on 2nd Amendment issues. Clearly, he is powerful because he had and has money behind him. Money that buys elections because it crushes opposition in the public arena with press and publicity and better staff. Indeed, if you looked at the Republican primary for governor in 2010, Haslam did not blow out the field of candidates – except for his financial resources. No, he had as is sadly the case in Tennessee with its open primaries two perceived conservatives (including Ron Ramsey) dividing the conservative Republican base. Had that base been selecting between either of the two conservatives and Haslam, we could well have one of them as Governor now rather than Haslam. However, as often happens in Tennessee with its open primaries the candidate that most of the people voted against wins because the other candidates ended up with lesser votes by dividing the conservative pie into slices too small to prevail. Another issue may have been in 2010 the “open primary” where Republicans allowed Democrats, independents and God knows how many illegal aliens to vote in the Republican primaries.

Now, let’s return to Haslam. It was well noted that while he was the mayor of Knoxville, Haslam was a member of Bloomberg’s Mayors against Guns organization – until he decided to run for Governor. For example, in July 2010, the TimesFree Press quoted Ron Ramsey as questioning Haslam’s “conservative” pitch:

Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey attacked Republican gubernatorial rival Bill Haslam’s conservative credentials Tuesday, saying, “Tennesseans are smart enough to see through his fluffy commercials and realize he’s not the ‘real deal’ at all.”

The lieutenant governor charged in his news release that Mr. Haslam “counts liberals” such as former Vice President Al Gore and U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn., as “supporters” and also noted Mr. Haslam has contributed to them in the past.

He also said Mr. Haslam “helped lead one of the country’s most radical gun groups — Bloomberg’s Mayors Against Guns — until 2008 when it became politically expedient to withdraw.”

And on yet another note, Mr. Ramsey, who is state Senate speaker, criticized an “endorsement” of Mr. Haslam by the liberal Knoxville political blog, saying, “When liberal rags are publicly choosing Mayor Haslam as their best hope for August 5th, alarm bells should be ringing for our state’s conservative voters.”

Now, to be fair, that did happen. Ramsey’s concerns were legitmate – he would not mislead the public. Of course, Haslam did belong to a group run by Bloomberg (who has a clear reputation with the public and public ownership of firearms). Haslam could not deny his voluntary affiliation. He is a smart man. He knew what the group was and what its founder’s agenda was. However, he claimed that he withdrew from Bloomberg’s group shortly before he decided to run for Governor and shortly before he joined the NRA (the classical pretend political pedigree).

Other news organizations noted Haslam’s explanation for withdrawing was that the Bloomberg group ‘went off in a different direction…’ but efforts of news sources to confirm any changes in the Bloomberg group having suddenly changed from being “against guns” were unproductive as the Nashville Post concluded.

Sadly, there was not so much as a name change for the group to back up Haslam’s excuse at the time.

Indeed, Haslam while campaigning even told the TFA Nashville chapter (YouTube) that he probably made a mistake joining the mayors’ group because it went in a different direction. He also told TFA that same night he would sign a Constitutional Carry law if the General Assembly passed it.

Now, take those statements and those videos and assume that Haslam at that time already planned that he would, if governor, ensure that Beth Harwell – a known non-supporter if not opponent of 2nd Amendment issues – would be House Speaker. With her as his “operative” in the House, Haslam could feel pretty comfortable that no firearms related laws, no 2nd Amendment laws, nothing he was “uncomfortable with” would ever come to his desk for consideration. Assume that. What would the prospective legislative session under a Haslam tenure look like. Well, coincidentially, like the last 2 years while Beth Harwell has been Speaker. It goes without denial that serious pressure has been placed on conservatives – in both parties – in the House to minimize, avoid and ignore to the extent possible 2nd Amendment legislation. What might not have been foreseen is the extent to which 2nd Amendment grassroots organizations – including NRA, TFA and now Tea Party groups – have made this is matter of great public discussion.

Money talks. Whether its business money or old big money Republican money – Money talks.

2nd Amendment supporters are wondering why the Republican officials, who were generally pretty pro 2nd Amendment and campaigned on that representation, have suddenly taken to denial and hiding in caves when that issue arises want to know what changed? The answer, perhaps, just perhaps, and at least in part is the Governor’s office. A Democrat governor had little control over Republican legislators (well, except for the RINO’s). However, a Republican governor who has his hands all over the events that suddenly resulted in Harwell seizing the Speaker’s office from the presumptive Casada (very similar to what happened in 2008 with Kent Williams) holds a lot of power.

Power can be used to either promote 2nd Amendment issues or destroy them.

November 2012 will not be an opportunity to elect a governor in Tennessee. However, it will be an opportunity to elect House members who will have the opportunity to select someone other than Harwell for Speaker. One place to start is District 45. Rep. Debra Maggart claims to be an NRA member and a former TFA member. She holds “shoots” (or has) to raise campaign funds. She has a permit. She does photo-ops at indoor gun ranges with Beth Harwell (see photo from Guns and Leather taken around March 2012). She told TFA that Tennessee’s firearms owner “must” view the Republican caucus as their best friend (a/k/a the “lesser of two evils” pitch from an evil). She told TFA that she will view any proposed legislation by how it would appear in “Democrat campaign literature.” She told (as did Casada) TFA that firearms owners could give the Republican caucus a list of what they wanted and that the leaders of the caucus would “pick 1” bill to consider. She has, in a word, taken Tennessee’s firearms owners and conservatives for granted. What is important is that her job is to build the Republican House Majority. Her job is to build support for Harwell. Firearms owners may not be able to defeat Harwell who has no challenger in 2012 but Firearms owners and conservatives have a real opporuntity to get the attention of every House Republican by working to replace Debra Maggart. That opportunity exists since Maggart has a primary opponent in Lt. Col Courtney Rogers. Firearms owners have a choice and it may not be the “lesser” of two evils but a real alternative to consider.

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