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Gun Rights Advocates, Democrats Taking Shots at GOP

The National Rifle Association’s point man in Tennessee favors putting the state’s Republican leadership on the spot for all to see regarding controversial gun-rights expansion measures in the General Assembly.

“This is an issue that has been pending for four years,” NRA lobbyist Darren LaSorte said of legislation designed to ensure employees can keep a firearm in their vehicle parked on their employer’s property during work hours, even if the employer doesn’t approve. Another bill bars a company or business owner from requiring that prospective employees disclose if they own or carry a gun.

Republicans on the House Calendar and Rules Committee voted 15-8 Tuesday to send the so-called guns-in-parking-lots or guns-in-trunks bills, HB3560 and HB3559, to a “summer study committee,” thus hoping to ensure their demise.

Under pressure from businesses arguing against the bills, GOP leaders in both the House and the Senate have been trying for weeks to deep-six the legislation. Large companies like Volkswagen and FedEx, as well as the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce, have expressed opposition to any gun-carry legal protections being extended onto a business-owner’s property. Universities and health care facility proprietors have joined in opposing the bills on safety grounds.

Discussion of the Republicans’ maneuvering to kill the bills got heated when Calendar Committee Chairman Bill Dunn, R-Knoxville, waved aside attempts by the sponsor, Democrat Eddie Bass of Prospect, to call a vote to send the legislation to the House floor.

Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner accused Dunn and other Republicans on the committee of violating established parliamentary protocols in their zeal to bury the bills for the session.

“I will sue this place if you don’t follow procedure,” said Turner. “Now, you are going to follow procedure — this is not going to be a dictatorship.”

Republicans across the room jeered Turner for being “out of order,” prompting the burly Old Hickory firefighter to gesture angrily and then rise to invite his tormentors over for a closer quarters discussion.

Turner said later he felt Republicans weren’t treating Bass fairly or respectfully. “They were trying to run over my member and my job is to protect my member,” said Turner.

“I’ll be honest with you, I’m not going to vote for the bill on the floor. But I think people have a right to hear it,” he said.

The NRA’s LaSorte said he’s now “absolutely in favor” of an attempt to bring the legislation directly to the floor of the chamber.

Gun-rights advocates have been ratcheting up the pressure on GOP leaders, saying that if Republicans block passage of the legislation this session they can expect to be harried by potshots aimed at their commitment to Second Amendment rights throughout the primary and general election campaign season.

John Harris, president of the Tennessee Firearms Association, caused something of a stir Tuesday when he fired off a political call to arms to the organization’s grassroots email list.

Harris took special aim at House GOP Caucus Chairwoman Debra Maggart of Hendersonville, whose political career, he wrote, “needs to end much as the Romans crucified criminals.”

“Symbolicly (sic), it is time to display a used crucifix at the entrance to the General Assembly as a warning,” the email stated.

House Republicans later accused Harris of “bullying” tactics.

However, Harris wasn’t finished yet. After the House Calendar Committee vote TFA unloaded another broadside.

“This is an outrage because this committee has no, none, jurisdiction over the merits of the bill. It has one job, to move a bill in an orderly fashion to the floor,” read the statement.

The email continued:

It is important to understand that the defeat of this important legislation is at the hands of the House Republican leadership and, from news reports, working with the cooperation of Senate Republican leadership and at the insistence of Gov. Haslam.

However, it is equally important to understand that the House Republican leadership serves at all times at the pleasure of the House Republican caucus. The caucus, as a whole, therefore holds the blame for failing to adequately demand that House Republican leadership bring this bill to the floor for a vote on the merits.

In the Senate, Democratic Leader Jim Kyle of Memphis on Monday also tried to engineer a straight-to-the-floor rebellion to circumvent that chamber’s scheduling committee. Kyle’s attempt narrowly failed, but Kyle indicated he’ll give it another shot before the session closes down for the year.

Both the Senate and the House are meeting for floor sessions today.

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Press Releases

TFA Still Itching for House GOP to Call ‘Guns-in-Parking-Lots’ Bill to Floor

Press Release from the Tennessee Firearms Association; April 24, 2012: 

House Calendar Improperly Sends Safe Commute to Summer Study

On a vote of 15 to 8, the House Calendar Committee has sent the Safe Commute bill (HB3560) to “summer study” which kills it unless the House Floor votes with a 2/3 margin to recall the bill. Once again, House Leadership trying to kill the bill with minimal recorded votes.

This is an outrage because this committee has no, none, jurisdiction over the merits of the bill. It has one job, to move a bill in an orderly fashion to the floor.

It is important to understand that the defeat of this important legislation is at the hands of the House Republican leadership and, from news reports, working with the cooperation of Senate Republican leadership and at the insistence of Gov. Haslam.

However, it is equally important to understand that the House Republican leadership serves at all times at the pleasure of the House Republican caucus. The caucus, as a whole, therefore holds the blame for failing to adequately demand that House Republican leadership bring this bill to the floor for a vote on the merits.

The House Republican caucus can still address this failure on its part by making a recall motion (Rule 53) on the floor of the House this week. It will be interesting to see if they have the will to do so.

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Republicans in Crossfire: Gun Rights vs. Property Rights

High-ranking GOP lawmakers entered this year’s legislative session vowing to steer clear of confrontations over gun legislation. But two months later a showdown is primed between two constituencies Republicans typically like to try to keep happy: Big business and big fans of the Second Amendment.

Republicans in the Tennessee House of Representatives who earlier this year said they wanted to disarm any attempts to expand the rights of gun owners are now trying to broker a compromise that does just that. Their turnabout is in no small part due to political sabre-rattling by the Tennessee Firearms Association, which has a long history of holding state lawmakers’ feet to the fire.

The TFA last week described House Republican leaders as an “axis of evil” for “pandering” to businesses interests that oppose the Legislature granting Tennesseans the express legal authority to keep a firearm locked in their vehicle if it is parked on a company’s property.

TFA’s executive director, Nashville attorney John Harris, accused Republicans of being interested first and foremost in trying to “appease the Big Business – big money investors in House leadership.”

“Sadly for conservatives, this support is apparently based more on Chicago-style influence peddling for dollars rather than supporting bills based on conservative and constitutional principles that directly impact the citizens,” Harris wrote in a March 1 TFA member alert.

But even if such language hits the bullseye as far as gun-rights activists are concerned, one of TFA’s favorite lawmakers says it’s off-putting to GOP politicians. Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, a Republican from Blountville, finds TFA’s penchant for firing off volleys of bombast a bit disagreeable.

“It upsets me some, what he’s said about Republicans and others,” Ramsey said of Harris. “The way he has acted is not the way you win friends and influence people.”

Harris said he respectfully disagrees. Tough political tactics and a take-no-prisoners rhetorical style worked pretty well when Democrats ran the show on Capitol Hill — and there’s no reason to go soft now that the GOP has the reins, he suggested.

“When they put their necks out and do stuff, and we don’t like it, and we tell people about it, they take some offense to it,” Harris told TNReport. “We’re not going to tone it down just because they’re unhappy.”

Harris said there’s a natural tendency for politicians of all stripes to claim they’re friends to this or that issue- or interest-group during campaign season, then ignore the people who got them elected after the ballots are counted. Tennessee gun-rights advocates have become particularly sensitive over the years to seeing bills they favor bottled up in legislative committees even though they’d likely pass if put to a floor vote, he said.

House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, of Chattanooga, has agreed to assemble a bill that would allow workers to lock guns in their cars under certain circumstances. Meanwhile, Rep. Eddie Bass, D-Prospect, and Sen. Mike Faulk, R-Church Hill, have a TFA-backed proposal — HB3559 — to allow all gun owners to stow their guns in locked vehicles on employers’ public and private parking lots.

McCormick says his plan to introduce a scaled-back guns in parking lots bill is “an attempt to do it right,” although he said he is still working on an amendment to rewrite HB3660 and declined to provide details about what the legislation would include.

“While we’d rather concentrate on jobs and the economy this year, some of our members would rather talk about guns, and we just want to do it in a responsible way,” he said Thursday.

The Tennessee Chamber of Commerce and other opponents to the legislation presented their case to a pair of Senate committee Tuesday. The chamber sent a letter to each member of the General Assembly pressing them to drop the plan because it would pose “a major infringement on private property rights.”

“Supporters of this legislation argue that this enhances individual rights, but you cannot expand rights for one person by restricting the rights of another. And you cannot use more government regulation to create less regulation,” read the letter signed by 18 interest groups ranging from chambers of commerce, the Tennessee Retail Association and the Tennessee Business Roundtable.

Last month the Senate Judiciary Committee heard from advocates of granting individuals legal protection to keep a firearm locked in a vehicle parked on an employer’s property.

Harris maintains that appealing to property-rights arguments as justification for prohibiting an employee from keeping a legally owned firearm locked in his or her own car is something of a red herring. “What right does the employer have to regulate what an employee decides they’re going to transport in their vehicle?” he said.

Ramsey says chances are ultimately pretty good that whatever guns-in-parking-lots bill the Legislature ends up passing won’t be altogether satisfying to the Tennessee Firearms Association.

“I can’t tell you where we’re going to end up on this. But in the end, there’s a real possibility that TFA won’t be happy, the NRA won’t be happy, but I think we’ll have reached a compromise that will get 17 and 50 votes,” said the lieutenant governor.

Gov. Bill Haslam told reporters after speaking to the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce Tuesday morning that “Republicans believe in property rights, and they believe in 2nd Amendment rights.”

“We talk a lot about balance,” said the governor. “This is one of those when getting the balance right is important.”

Mark Engler contributed to this report.

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Featured Liberty and Justice NewsTracker Tax and Budget

TBI Looks to Lift $3M from Gun-Carry Permit Revenues for Fingerprint Database

Tennessee’s Bureau of Investigation hopes to pull $3 million from handgun permit fees to upgrade the state’s fingerprinting database next year and says otherwise more crimes will go unsolved.

Although that practice is legal under state code, gun rights advocates say it’s unfair that a portion of their user fees fund activities that have little to do with law-abiding gun owners.

“The objective of the government to invest money in fingerprinting is not an activity that can be identified as servicing the permit holder process,” said John Harris, executive director of the Tennessee Firearms Association.

“Our view is they shouldn’t be charging essentially the permit holder for the cost, or even a substantial portion of the cost, for the technology and personnel when it’s a part of law enforcement that needs to be funded by the state’s general budget,” Harris said.

Every time someone buys a $115 Tennessee handgun permit, $15 is channeled to the TBI and held in a fund “for the sole purpose of updating and maintaining its fingerprint criminal history database,” according to state law. TBI has proposed taking a total of $3 million from that fund in the 2012-13 fiscal year.

Storage for the state’s Automated Fingerprint Identification System database is now reaching capacity, TBI Director Mark Gwyn told Gov. Bill Haslam during a budget hearing Nov. 4 on Capitol Hill.

“If we don’t have this upgrade, we just will not be able to put any more latent fingerprints in the system, and obviously, if that there were to happen, there would be crimes that would not be solved,” Gwyn said at the hearing.

The agency is proposing a $65.9 million budget, including federal funds, which is 2.6 percent lower than the current year’s.

When asked to reduce the state share of the department’s spending by 5 percent, or $1.7 million, Gwyn said he would eliminate 18 filled agent positions and do away with another six vacant jobs that have been left empty for more than a year. The department now has almost 500 people on staff, including 328 gun- and badge-carrying agents.

In the last year, the department handled 1,818 active cases, contributed to 181 convictions and 247 arrests, according to TBI.

The governor is meeting throughout the month with agency directors to talk about their budget needs and determine where he may be able to cut as much as $400 million in next year’s spending plan to make up for expenses outpacing the state’s revenue growth. The governor is expected to propose a roughly $31 billion budget early next year.

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Press Releases

Tennessee Firearms Association: No Time Like Present to Push Gun Rights Bills

Newsletter from the TFA Legislative Action Committee; Jan. 18, 2011:

“Wait 2 or 3 years . . . .”

We have received a lot of questions, expressions of concern and a fair amount of anger about reports that some in the 107th General Assembly (a/k/a the current Tennessee Legislature) have expressed the opinion, particularly to 2nd Amendment supporters and firearms owners, that “we” should not come and ask for any more changes in Tennessee’s gun laws for “2 or 3 years . . . .”  Although this 2 year legislative session is about to commence, this sentiment has already generated what appears to be a lot of dissatisfaction and even anger with those who now control the leadership in the 107th General Assembly.

Reportedly, 2010 marked the first time since the War of Northern Aggression (a/k/a the “Civil War”) when the Republican Party has been in clear control of the General Assembly and the office of Governor.  Note, I am not saying that this is the first time that conservatives have been in control since it is commonly accepted that there are those who are labeled Republicans who are not core, constitutional conservatives.

Some would argue and it is likely true that core constitutional conservatives including gun owners, NRA members, TFA members, Eagle Forum, Tea Party members, and others who are members of one or more predominately core conservative value organizations are the instrumentalities that brought about the revolt and changes in 2010.  Certainly, it was not the mainstream Republican party since it has remained under the control of the same segment of individuals, such as Lamar Alexander, Bob Corker, Howard Baker, Bill Frist, etc., for quite some time.  Indeed, had it been the maintstream Republican party, then why 2010?  Why not 2000, 1996, 1994, 1988 or any other even numbered year since the War of Northern Aggression?  What changed in 2010 was the uprising of numerous core conservative grassroots organizations which had frankly had enough of the “2 Party” system and their respective leaderships.

Those who have come into State public office as a result of the 2010 elections will take oaths as a condition precedent to service.  These oaths, insofar as the 107th General Assembly is concerned, as mandated by Article X of the Tennessee Constitution which provides, in relevant part:

§ 1. Oath of office

Every person who shall be chosen or appointed to any office of trust or profit under this Constitution, or any law made in pursuance thereof, shall, before entering on the duties thereof, take an oath to support the Constitution of this State, and of the United States, and an oath of office.

§ 2. Oath of office; general assembly

Each member of the Senate and House of Representatives, shall before they proceed to business take an oath or affirmation to support the Constitution of this State, and of the United States and also the following oath: I ………. do solemnly swear (or affirm) that as a member of this General Assembly, I will, in all appointments, vote without favor, affection, partiality, or prejudice; and that I will not propose or assent to any bill, vote or resolution, which shall appear to me injurious to the people, or consent to any act or thing, whatever, that shall have a tendency to lessen or abridge their rights and privileges, as declared by the Constitution of this State.

Thus, the members of the 107th General Assembly must take an oath (the integrity of which we will measure by their actions) which requires them to

• support the Constitution of Tennessee

• support the Constitution of the United States

• refuse to support any bill or resolution that would appear to be injurious to the people

• consent to any act or thing, whatever, that shall have a tendency to lessen or abridge [the peoples’] rights and privileges

Support of the respective constitutions means that they will support laws that are constitutionally sound but perhaps of equal importance that they will actively work to repeal, amend or replace laws that are adverse to either constitution.

In addition, the use of the term “consent” would carry with it the knowing tolerance of existing laws or regulations which would “have a tendency to lessen or abridge [the peoples’] rights and privileges.”  Thus, under this Oath, a legislator is affirming to the citizens of the State of Tennessee that they will act to cleanse and repeal statutes, rules and regulations which have the “tendency” to “lessen or abridge” the rights and privileges of the people as guaranteed by the Tennessee Constitution and, by extension through the support clause, the united States Constitution.

Against this Oath, we can examine what is implied or intended by the phrase “wait 2 or 3 years . . . .”

What does that phrase mean in the context of the Oath?  Are these legislators making the suggestion that our laws – those of interests to firearms owners, 2nd Amendment advocates, civil rights advocates and constitutional conservatives – are clearly within the framework of both constitutions at the present but that in “2 or 3 years” things will probably change for the worse and when they do the General Assembly will deal swiftly with them then?  No, that would clearly be a silly assertion for we know better.

Are they saying “wait 2 or 3 years” because we, as the General Assembly, have already bestowed significant attention to these issues in the past few years and we, the General Assembly, think that it would be better received by the news media and the general public if we spent our time and resources on other topics – any topics other than firearms or 2nd Amendment rights.  Bills such as these might be in need of preferential review:

• HB 0026 by Hardaway Firearms and Ammunition – As introduced, creates various gun show offenses, including prohibiting any person who is not a licensed firearms dealer from transferring a firearm to another person if any part of the transfer takes place at a gun show or within 1,000 feet of a gun show. – Amends TCA Title 39, Chapter 17.

• HB 0099 by Hardaway Animal Control – As introduced, requires all owners of dangerous, vicious, and wild animals to secure minimal liability insurance of $100,000 within 60 days from the date the owner knows or should reasonably know that the animal is a dangerous, vicious, or wild animal. – Amends TCA Title 39 and Title 44.

It is not real clear what some members of the 107th General Assembly intend when we hear the phrase “wait 2 or 3 years ….” so, let us examine that concept.

It would seem that the priority of legislation should in most instances place somewhere near the top those bills which address the very core foundations, protections, rights and principles that are central to the two (2) constitutions at issue.  Thus, topics which address the protections or infringements of rights and privileges guaranteed by the Bill of Rights should take priority.  Topics which address the limits and relationship between the State and the union government (10th and 14th Amendment issues) need priority.  Topics such as funding government and the proper scope of powers of State and local government need attention.  Topics such as the preservation and restoration of citizenship rights and privileges (including illegal immigration) may deserve priority.  Topics such as the access to public natural resources need attention.  Topics such as the swift, certain and adequate punishment of criminals (that is, the State’s police power) require attention. Truly, there are many issues which are properly before the General Assembly and, sadly, too many which are a waste of time and resources because of their apparent silliness if nothing else.

But the issue is what compels some members of the General Assembly in addressing specifically those issues which are guaranteed by Article I, Section 26 of the Tennessee Constitution and the 2nd Amendment to the united States Constitution (now by virtue of the 14th Amendment and the McDonald decision) to declare that these fundamental issues should “wait 2 or 3 years ….”  Are we being told that this category of rights that are expressly protected by both constitutions were not intended to be included when they took their Constitutional oaths of office?  Are we to accept that these constitutional protected rights are somehow less significant than whether individuals who own “dangerous” animals have $100,000 liability insurance?

So, when it comes to the rights which are protected by the State and federal constitutions, how do those, who take an oath to uphold and protect the constitutions, to defend the consitutions and to be intolerant of any bill or current law or regulation which is injurious to the rights to protected justify tolerating presently unconstitutional laws for “2 or 3 years”?  Many do not because they do not, at the core, place the Oath and what it stands for as the compass of their public service or the litmus by which they test proposed legislation as well as existing statutes and regulations. Indeed, too many in public sevice even end up at public expense in prison because they disregard – or never even took seriously – the Oath.

Perhaps about the only answer they can give when they tell us to wait is perceive political expediance before an electoriate which is sadly ignorant of the Constitution, of civics and which increasingly care only about whether they get more from government than they are required to contribute to its function.  These public officials might also be concerned that some news reporter will not understand the existence or function of the Constitutions and thereby may malign them in the press for spending “too much” time on “guns” much as we have seen over the last 15 years.

Ultimately, the point is that the General Assembly, being fully elected by the people, should be the champion first and foremost of the duty to protect the constitutionally recognized and protected rights of the citizens.  Slapping those in the face who brought them to power should not be lightly accepted and if persistent should result in the clear and unequivocal removal from office as soon as the opportunity presents.

Some might say that those of week continence or conviction relative to constitutional rights should not be placed in a positions of public trust.  Others might saw that we, the citizens, choose our masters and if we choose fools – so be it.

Cesare Beccaria noted:

False is the idea of utility that sacrifices a thousand real advantages for one imaginary or trifling inconvenience; that would take fire from men because it burns, and water because one may drown in it; that has no remedy for evils except destruction. The laws that forbid the carrying of arms are laws of such a nature. They disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes. Can it be supposed that those who have the courage to violate the most sacred laws of humanity, the most important of the code, will respect the less important and arbitrary ones, which can be violated with ease and impunity, and which, if strictly obeyed, would put an end to personal liberty… and subject innocent persons to all the vexations that the guilty alone ought to suffer? Such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants; they serve rather to encourage than to prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed man. They ought to be designated as laws not preventive but fearful of crimes, produced by the tumultuous impression of a few isolated facts, and not by thoughtful consideration of the inconveniences and advantages of a universal decree.

We sadly do not see evidence of such wisdom in the function of modern legislatures.  We must, as citizens, strive to force this concept on those who strive to public service but who do not already hold such a doctrine as a core principal on which public policies should be founded.

Nashville Chapter meeting 1-18-11

Nashville Chapter is scheduled to meet on Tuesday, January 18, 2011 ??Meeting time is 7:00 p.m. to 8:00 pm??In addition to discussion of the new legislative session, there will be a point/counter-point discussion of Permitted (Bob Pope) vs. Permit-less Carry (Andrew Asnip).??Some points to be discussed include:??•Arizona/Alaska style carry?•Vermont style carry (and the differences among them)?•Tennessee’s style of permit?•Reciprocity?•Qualification requirements – good or bad??Arrive early – 5:00 to 5:30 would be good. Eat in the meeting room if possible and if not, get as close as you can. We will try finishing eating by 7:00 in the meeting room to clear out everything but drinks for the meeting if we have a large turnout.??Location: Golden Corral Hermitage?315 Old Lebanon Dirt Rd?Hermitage, TN 37076?(615) 874-1313??IT IS IMPORTANT TO PAY AT GOLDEN CORRAL AS YOU COME IN FOR THE MEETING IF YOU ARE EATING. TELL THEM THAT AT THE CASH REGISTER THAT YOU ARE THERE FOR THE MEETING AND TO APPLY THE “GROUP RATE” WHICH INCLUDES YOUR DRINK.??You do not have to be a TFA member to attend nor do you have to be a resident of Nashville. Everyone is welcome and encourage to bring guests – even spouses.??I want to encourage each of you to bring someone with you to the meeting who has not been to one or been to one recently. There’s no cost to come (unless you eat because the meal is on you).

Shelby Chapter Meeting 1-20-11

The Shelby County Chapter of the Tennessee Firearms Association will meet Thursday, 1/20/11, at 7:00 PM at Range USA:

http://www.rangeusa.com/

2770 Whitten Road in Memphis. Please support Range USA every chance you can! They support TFA.

The District Attorney’s Office has scheduling conflicts, however, will meet with us at a future meeting. We will discuss our legislative goals and strategies for this year. For one, I’d like to discuss contacting businesses that post and work to overcome the ignorance and bigotry against carry permit holders. ? ? ?Although we always welcome new TFA Members, you DO NOT have to be a member to attend our meetings.

In Liberty,

Pat McGarrity