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TFA: Beavers Files Amendments to Address “Problems” With Safe Commute Law

Press release from the Tennessee Firearms Association; February 3, 2013:

Nashville, TN – Gun rights bulwark Senator Mae Beavers has filed amendments to be addressed on the Senate Floor to address problems in the current law regarding a law passed in 2013 regarding handgun permit holders who commute to work and their right to store legally owned firearms in personal vehicles.

The amendments, which have been filed on Senate Bills 1700 and 1701, will allow workers in Tennessee to safely commute to work with a firearm in their vehicle without fear of either criminal prosecution or termination of employment. While Senator Mark Green’s bills (SB1700 and SB1701) are a step in the right direction, they do not adequately address the legal confusion surrounding the 2013 law. In addition, SB1700 and SB1701 do not prevent employers from firing employees who store personal items in personal vehicles.

Senator Beavers’ amendments would fix all the problems with the 2013 law, which was pushed through by Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey even with notice of serious flaws. Senator Beavers’ amendments are intended to ensure that law abiding Tennessee firearms owners are protected while transporting firearms in their vehicles to and from work.

Senator Beavers’ amendments would provide that a citizen can store any item that he or she legally possesses, including a firearm, in any vehicle (other than an employer provided vehicle) that the citizen legally possesses. It is a simple clarification of Tennessee’s “castle doctrine” which equates the personal vehicle with the personal residence.

This type of change is necessary because current law does not fully protect employees from criminal prosecution nor does it provide any protection from losing their jobs if their vehicle contains an item they lawfully possess, especially a firearm. The Tennessee Attorney General issued an opinion (13-41) noting that the 2013 “parking lot” law did not actually protect lawful possession of a firearm from criminal prosecution or termination of employment.

Recently, Lieutenant Governor Ron Ramsey’s office directed legislative staff lawyers to manufacture a legal opinion that stated exactly the opposite. The Tennessee Firearms Association understands the opinion from the Lieutenant Governor’s staff lawyers is faulty because testimony of the House bill sponsor, Rep. Jeremy Faison, disagrees with their conclusion regarding legislative intent. During testimony last year, Representative Jeremy Faison stated that the bill does not protect employees from termination or criminal prosecution, and that it was not the intent of the bill sponsor to do so. See statements of Rep. Faison in committee regarding HB118 on Feb 20, 2013.

In addition, approximately ten amendments were offered in 2013 on the House Floor by Representatives Mark Pody and John Mark Windle to address the serious and obvious flaws in the 2013 legislation before it was enacted. House leadership prohibited any of those amendments from being addressed on the merits. The defeat of these 2013 House floor amendments are evidence that the legislature knew of these flaws in the Ramsey legislation but did not take corrective action.

Even though the Tennessee Firearms Association discounts the opinion issued by Lieutenant Governor Ron Ramsey’s lawyers, the fact that two divergent legal opinions exist on the 2013 law shows that significant confusion in the law must be addressed. Indeed, the confusion may be so significant that the 2013 law could be unconstitutionally vague.

This issue is not just about firearms however, as the rights of law abiding citizens to store items that they are lawfully allowed to possess in their vehicles while at work have also come into question. In 2012, a representative from Federal Express testified in the Senate Judiciary hearings on the same topic that they were able to fire employees for the mere possession of a Bible in their vehicle while parked on Federal Express property.

The Tennessee Firearms Association would have preferred that the problems with the 2013 law had been fully considered and discussed in the Senate Judiciary before these issues were sent to the Senate Floor. However, Senator Beavers’ bill (SB1733) and potentially other bills on this topic were not even considered or discussed by the Senate Judiciary when it took up this issue.

“Any vote against Senator Beavers’ amendment must be considered carefully as a vote against the Second Amendment, fundamental constitutional principles and the life safety of citizens, even if it is only a procedural vote,” said John Harris, Executive Director of the Tennessee Firearms Association. “Former Representative Debra Maggart was ousted from office by a huge margin due in part to her continual partisan efforts to block good Second Amendment legislation and impairing the rights of citizens to protect their families and lives. It is important to address these core constitutional and life safety issues carefully when they are raised.”

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TFA: Legislature’s GOP Leaders ‘Ignoring Constitutional Right and Life Safety of Citizens’

Letter from the Tennessee Firearms Association; December 20, 2013:

Dear Tennessee Firearms Owner,

In case you missed it this week, Tennessee’s Republican leadership have indicated that Tennessee’s firearms owners are not a priority for them in 2014. In fact Beth Harwell, the Speaker of the Tennessee House of Representatives, apparently wants to keep you and your constitutional rights out in the cold again next year.

At a press conference this week she discussed her priorities for the 2014 legislative session and the right to keep and bear arms was not a priority for her or her fellow establishment henchmen. She doesn’t care about you or me, or our constitutionally protected right of self defense. This of course comes as no surprise as she has actively blocked firearms legislation in the past, and is no friend to the firearms owners in Tennessee.

How can it be in Tennessee that the ability to defend your life and your family is not a priority for Republican leadership?

Sadly, it is not hard to envision that Speaker Harwell may be taking many of her marching orders from Governor Haslam who was a member of the Mayors Against Guns coalition run by infamous gun-grabber Mayor Bloomberg of New York. One could easily conclude from the last three years that Governor Haslam has sent instructions down to Speaker Harwell and Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey that they are not allowed to send any significant firearms legislation to his desk. This is the same Haslam who several years ago promissed the Tennessee Firearms Association that he would sign a law adopting Constitutional Carry in Tennessee but who, once governor, has never asked for that law to be put on his desk! We must ask whether Tennessee’s current Republican leadership is representing Tennesseans and their constitutional rights or are they more interested in Bloomberg’s mission and the interests of Federal Express and the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce?

But we have all heard this before.

In the summer a few years ago, then Representative Debra Maggart, the number three leader in the Republican controlled Tennessee House of Representatives, stated to me that Republican leaders did not want to offer, publicly debate or even pass pro-gun legislation in election years because they think protecting the Second Amendment interests of the citizens would hurt their chances as Republicans to gain more power in the elections. Fortunately for us the voters in her district decided overwhelmingly to give her the pink slip when she asked to be re-elected in 2012. Of course much of that was due to your help in defending your rights and working with TFA’s Political Action Committee.

It is shameful that the Republican establishment leadership seems to be planning to continue ignoring the constitutional rights and life safety of citizens even after the grassroots spoke so loudly to throw Debra Maggart out of office.

The cold shoulder given by Establishment leadership like Bloomburg, Haslam, Ramsey and Harwell to ‘We The People’ is unacceptable. We expect it from Obama, Pelosi and Reid but not from “true” Republicans.

The fact of the matter is that the Tennessee Firearms Association and its members have different ideas about the 2014 legislative session. We will be fighting hard next year to expand the right to keep and bear arms in Tennessee. We are looking to grow our organization and we want you to grow with us. But in order to be successful we need your help.

As we prepare to hold our politicians accountable, as we prepare to stop bad legislation, as we prepare to go against the weak-knee Establishment leaders, and as we work to protect those legislators and candidates who do prioritize the Constitution ahead of mere partisanship, we need your help. We will be in the trenches, will you be there with us? We are committing substantial resources to mobilizing this battle like never before, will you be there with us?

You see, this is a war we can win but to win it we must have enough tools and resources. And the tools we need are not just your friendship, well wishes and hopes. With the Establishment relying on Bloomburg and Big Business money, the enemy has defined the battlefield to include massive financial resources. So I am forced by our opposition to ask for your most generous contribution of $25, $35, $75, or $100 today.

If you are willing to invest in our shared cause, please visit this page right now to contribute: http://www.tfaonline.org/index.php/legislation/donate

In liberty,

John Harris
Executive Director
Tennessee Firearms Association

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TFA: GOP Leadership ‘Premeditated as Early as 2011’ That Gun-in-Lots Bills Would Be Killed in 2012

Newsletter from the Tennessee Firearms Association; June 13, 2012:

Republican legislative leaders in an election cycle are rewriting history because they must if the claim to be pro 2nd Amendment

The most discussed legislation on the 2nd Amendment horizon in the 2011 and 2012 legislative sessions was the Safe Commute Act which the Republican leaders intentional killed this year. Now that the session is over, Republican leaders in the General Assembly are claiming that the bill was stopped because of too much pressure from the Tennessee Firearms Association. That is a very interesting position, some might say spin, for them to take.

First, the Republican leadership’s assertion raises the question of whether the Republican leaders in the General Assembly decided to terminate a bill that otherwise had merit solely in retaliation against a grassroots organization for pushing in a manner that the legislators characterize as too hard. Can that be? Did they decide on the bill not on its merits but in retaliation? If so, then it could be argued that none are really qualified to serve as stewards of the Constitution or as guardians for the rights of the citizens if they have handled legislation not as stewards of a Republic form of government but as self-perceived masters who have absolute discretion to dole out or kill legislation as nothing more than favors from the king.

Second and equally important, it is necessary to look at certain facts to see if these assertions by Republican leadership are in fact true, which is self-damning in that case, or if they are misrepresentations of the facts in an effort to “blame Bush” for something that they themselves should admit was their own decision.

Since Republican leaders are claiming that the bill would have come to the floor but for TFA’s push, then it is necessary to examine that claim for factual integrity. Such an examination will reveal evidence that the Republican leadership had premeditated as early as 2011 that this legislation – the Safe Commute act – would never see the sunshine of a floor vote.

First, it has been reported numerous times that Debra Maggart told TFA in the summer of 2011 that she did not want any 2nd Amendment legislation in the 2012 session because it was an election year and she felt that such legislation would potentially hurt the chances of the Republican party to get 66 or more seats (and from more recent statements we might also conclude that she felt it would hurt the incumbents – like herself – if there were primary races).

Second, we saw that the declaration in July 2011 by Rep. Gerald McCormick that he had formed a Republican Caucus Firearms Task Force to study firearms issues prior to the 2012 session. Soon thereafter, he announced the termination of that caucus task force and then within a few days its re-establishment. Keep in mind that Rep. McCormick announced this task force after 33 House Republicans fell on partisan leadership swords and voted on the House Floor against the Safe Commute law in 2011 which quickly sent the bill back to committee rather than risk a confused floor vote after that much damage had been done. Now, history shows that the task force never gave notice of a public meeting, it met for only about 30 minutes and it issued no reports that were ever made public. Not once during the 2012 legislative cycle was any reference made to legislation coming out of the Republican task force nor was any task force report used in any open committee meeting to report for or against proposed legislation. It was nothing more than political “candy” being passed out by Rep. McCormick with no true intent to perform – something the law might call “promissory fraud” but since a politican did it it might simply be called a “standard characteristic”.

Now, we see a press release being issued from Richard Archie. For purposes of full disclosure, Mr. Archie is the West Tennessee Director of TFA. However, he is also a leader in the Tea Party movement and a regular invited talk radio personality covering roughly 22 counties in West Tennessee. The following report comes from his involvement in meetings with legislators in the context of Tea Party meetings – not TFA meetings.

It has been suggested that the failure of the Employee Safe Commute Act in the second half of the 107th General Assembly can be laid at the feet of the TFA due to the “over the top” rhetoric put forth by the group, more especially the e-mail sent by John Harris on April 24th, 2012 which was after a “Secret” caucus meeting and vote to decide if the People’s House should take up the bill after it was voted out of committee in the House. It is apparent that Leadership had decided long before that event that the bill would not see the light of day.

At the Tennessee Tea Party Leader’s Summit held in Nashville January 6th, 2012, I was in conversation with Senators Bill Ketron and Jim Tracy regarding the “Parking Lot Bill” as sponsored the previous year by Representative Josh Evans in the House, and Senator Stacy Campfield in the Senate. After a long and exhaustive conversation with Rep. Evans, he informed me that he would put his bill “On Notice” in the House, in its original form, if we could initiate movement on the issue in the Senate. Senator Ketron informed me that night, that it was his understanding that there would be no actions regarding firearms issues to come forth out of the House at the direction of the Speaker. This is substantiated by his being quoted in the TNReport Jan 03, 2012 as quoted from the article:

https://tnreport.com/blog/2012/01/03/leftovers-on-menu-for-new-legislative-year/

“Lawmakers talked about but never passed a number of gun bills proposed last year, including letting handgun carry permit holders lock their weapons inside their car while at work, HB2021, which made it to the House floor but never came up for a vote. Another bill, HB2016, would let college faculty and staff carry guns on campus, although that measure never made it out of committee. Legislative leaders on both sides of the aisle say they expect to see those issues introduced but probably sidelined this year. “Being an election year, I don’t see leadership letting that come to the surface,” said Sen. Bill Ketron, the Senate Republican Caucus Chairman from Murfreesboro.

Attempting to lay the aversion to firearms issues to the actions of the TFA is rebutted in the following pronouncements by Leadership.

http://www.wkrn.com/story/16161015/gun-proponents-hope-to-loosen-laws-in-tenn

November 30, 2011 quote from the article:

“The chairwoman of the house Republican caucus (Debra Maggart) states in part, “Second amendment issues will always be on our agenda. Our main priority has been and will continue to be finding ways to encourage job creation in the private sector.”

http://www.wsmv.com/story/16374305/lawmakers-prepare-to-tackle-controversial-issues

From the article December 21, 2011:

“While the Senate wants to pursue a bill to allow carry permit holders to leave their guns in their workplace parking lots, House leaders said guns won’t be a priority.

“I think our focus will not be on gun issues, it will be on economic development and jobs, job creation,” said Rep. Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga.

It is patently obvious that those in power had no intention of allowing a fair hearing of the Employee Safe Commute Act in the legislature, and, even thought the issue DID pass the vetting process of the committee system in both the House and Senate, those who chose to exert their ability to deny the Citizens their rights under the Constitution prevailed.

The frustration of firearms owners can be understood, when referenced to the misinformation that has accorded them by current Leadership of the General Assembly with respect to this specific issue. Quoting Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey from a statement he made April 28, 2011: “A gun permit holder should be able to take his gun and leave it in his locked automobile when he goes to work.” http://www.memphisdailynews.com/editorial/Article.aspx?id=58222, Compare his 2011 statement against his statement April 24, 2012 Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey and Rep. Beth Harwell, have indicated they’re uncomfortable with the legislation, worrying the bills infringe upon the rights of employers to control what happens on their own property. https://tnreport.com/blog/2012/04/24/lawmakers-jockeying-on-guns-in-lots-legislation/.

Indeed, news reports from other sources, such as TNReport.com chronical regular and recurring statements from Republican leadership evidencing that they had no intent to let any 2nd Amendment issues come to a floor vote in 2012. Consider, as an example, again the TNReport that Mr. Archie referenced above:

https://tnreport.com/blog/2012/01/03/leftovers-on-menu-for-new-legislative-year/

Leftovers on Menu for New Legislative Year

by Andrea Zelinski on January 3, 2012

Guns on Campus, In Employee Parking Lots
Lawmakers talked about but never passed a number of gun bills proposed last year, including letting handgun carry permit holders lock their weapons inside their car while at work, HB2021, which made it to the House floor but never came up for a vote. Another bill, HB2016, would let college faculty and staff carry guns on campus, although that measure never made it out of committee. Legislative leaders on both sides of the aisle say they expect to see those issues introduced but probably sidelined this year. “Being an election year, I don’t see leadership letting that come to the surface,” said Sen. Bill Ketron, the Senate Republican Caucus Chairman from Murfreesboro.

Also, see a report in October 2011 by Knoxnews.com

http://www.knoxnews.com/news/2011/oct/15/political-notebook-gun-bills-still-on-agenda-151/?partner=RSS

Political notebook: Gun bills still on legislative agenda — or not

By Tom Humphrey Posted October 15, 2011 at 4 a.m. 

***

House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, who set up the Republican Firearms Task Force in July, says he may now disband it. At the time, McCormick said he believed the economy would be rebounding, but that appears not to be the case now.
The chairman of the task force, Republican Rep. Curry Todd of Collierville, resigned the post this week after his arrest on charges of drunken driving and illegal possession of a firearm. McCormick said that is not the reason for de-emphasizing gun legislation.
“I was really hoping the economy would be roaring back by now, and it’s not,” McCormick told the Chattanooga Times-Free Press. “I think people want us to focus more on economic development and jobs and leave some of the other issues to the side for the time being.”
“This is a timely opportunity to do that [disband it] with the gun task force,” he said. “I don’t think we need to push those issues right now.”

The preponderance of the evidence before the public is that the Republican leaders in the General Assembly, Rep. Maggart, Rep. McCormick, Speaker Harwell and quite likely even Lt. Gov. Ramsey all treated the 2nd Amendment not as a constitutional issue over the last 4 years but merely as a partisan issue. They apparently saw it as nothing more than an “issue” that had partisan important to be used or suppressed in the calculation of what was most politically expedient to increase the number of seats held by Republicans as opposed to a Constitutional issue that impacts the very capacity of citizens to provide for their own self defense.

More recently, we see news reports where Republican leaders like Maggart and McCormick are claiming that their number one job is to re-elect incumbents – nothing more than a heightened partisan role. In a TNReport.com news report dated June 1, 2012, where her “partisan first” and “incumbent first” mentalities are highlighted:

Tennessee Republicans are looking to tighten their grip on state government in the Nov. 6 general election by winning an even larger legislative majority than they’ve enjoyed the last two years.
But party leaders, particularly in the House, say a first priority is to ensure that members of their caucus survive challenges in the Aug. 2 primary.
House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick and Caucus Chairwoman Debra Maggart both say incumbents winning primaries is a prime concern. In McCormick’s words, incumbents deserve to be “rewarded on election day” for responsibly governing since they began dominating state politics two years ago.

* * *

Maggart sees it as her unwavering responsibility to ensure sitting lawmakers get their jobs back next year. And she faces her own tough re-election challenge against Courtney Rogers of Goodlettsville, a retired U.S. Air Force lieutenant colonel.
Supporting a candidate can mean everything from political donations from individual lawmakers or the well-funded House GOP Caucus, appearances from high-ranking lawmakers such as Speaker Beth Harwell and even coming out to knock on doors or work political fundraisers.
“My job is to bring the incumbents back,” Maggart told TNReport. “That’s our job — my job — as the caucus leader.”

Now that we have caught the Republican leadership putting partisan objectives ahead of their oaths, the Constitution and their stewardship, we hear them claim “we stopped the bill because TFA pushed to hard.” Retaliation is admitted but apparently they did not see that when the claim was made.

We also see, just as Maggart and McCormick told TNReport.com, other incumbents including Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey and Governor Haslam running to aid the campaigns of those incumbents who think that they are “entitled” to be re-elected, such as Debra Maggart, as simply more evidence of the “incumbent protection” mentality that puts their personal objectives and thirst for power ahead of their fundamental duty of stewardship and constitutional accountability.

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Ramsey Against Guns-In-Lots Protections for Hunters

Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey said Thursday he believes the advancing guns-in-lots legislation goes “too far” as it’s currently written.

He spoke to reporters at his weekly media availability about Sen. Mike Faulk’s bill, SB3002, which moved out of a Senate committee earlier this week and is headed to the Senate floor. The bill, which would allow employees to store firearms in their cars parked on company lots, was amended so that it applied only to gun carry permit holders and licensed hunters aged 21 or older.

“I do think they go too far, and I’m as big of a Second Amendment rights person that’s ever lived,” Ramsey said. “But I think expanding it to hunting licenses — even though I can see why they did that — but that’s something that doesn’t need to be done. It needs to be gun carry permit holders only.”

Sen. Beverly Marrero, D-Memphis, and others at the committee meeting Tuesday questioned the level of training and expertise necessary for a person to obtain a hunter’s license. While the meeting was going on, an Associated Press reporter purchased a license online for $27.

Ramsey said he’s never had a “philosophical struggle” like the current one, between property rights and Second Amendment rights, both of which are traditional pillars of the Republican party.

“The [National Rifle Association] and I are on different sides on this, right now,” he said. “That’s highly unusual for me, of course, but they want to go much further than I do.”

Still, he said he believes differences among legislators will be worked out and that he expects to see amendments proposed on the Senate floor.