Liberty and Justice NewsTracker

AG Opinion: Abuse-Reporting Bill Has Problems

Tennessee’s top lawyer has declared that a controversial measure purporting to prevent animal cruelty is “constitutionally suspect.”

Republican Gov. Bill Haslam has said he wouldn’t decide whether to sign the legislation until after he got state-sponsored legal advice. Attorney General Robert Cooper issued the opinion Thursday.

Cooper and his staff wrote that the much-debated legislation potentially violates principles of freedom of the press and the right against self incrimination. Also suggested in the attorney general’s opinion, written upon the request of Nashville House Democrat Mike Stewart, is that the measure, House Bill 1191, appears not-so-subtly designed to target a particular group — namely, animal rights activists — rather than to address a matter of genuine state concern through a neutral law of general applicability.

Sponsored in the state House by Republican Andy Holt of Dresden and in the Senate by Somerville Republican Dolores Gresham, the bill requires anyone who films or photographs animal abuse “for the purpose of documenting the offense” to hand the material over to unspecified law enforcement authorities within 48 hours. It passed handily in the Senate, but by only one vote in the House of Representatives. Both chambers are controlled by Republicans.

“HB1191’s requirements related to both the reports and the recordings impact speech rights protected by the First Amendment,” concluded the state’s lawyers. “In that regard, there are three potential objections on the validity of the restrictions and requirements contained in HB1191. First, the provisions in HB1191 are arguably underinclusive relative to the governmental interests that the bill seeks to protect. Second, the requirement to provide any recordings to law enforcement authorities could be construed by the courts as an unconstitutional prior restraint. Third, the reporting requirements could be found to constitute an unconstitutional burden on news gathering.”

The “underinclusiveness” objection raised in Cooper’s opinion relates to the scope of the bill. The measure appears to target only those who are looking to document and expose animal cruelty, rather than anyone who films or witnesses animal abuse.

By way of explaining the constitutional red flag raised when the specter of underinclusiveness comes up in a law, Tennessee’s attorney general quotes a 2011 U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down a California effort to ban violent video games. In the high-court’s opinion, penned by Justice Antonin Scalia, “Underinclusiveness raises serious doubts about whether the government is in fact pursuing the interest it invokes, rather than disfavoring a particular speaker or viewpoint.”

In Tennessee, that’s been a central criticism of the “Ag Gag” bill all along. Opponents rejected claims by the bill’s sponsors that their overriding concern is to stop abuse of animals. Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, himself an attorney, went so far as to call the measure “a sham bill.”

Cooper, a Democrat, states that “(t)he underinclusiveness of HB1191’s reporting duty, which applies to recordings but not to other documentary or eyewitness evidence of abuse, creates an issue about whether the government is disfavoring particular persons who seek to communicate by creating recordings of livestock cruelty, rather than pursuing its stated interest in having immediate reporting of livestock cruelty in order to facilitate law enforcement investigations.”

Reached by phone Thursday evening, Rep. Holt said he “respectfully disagrees” with Cooper’s assessment. Holt, a hog farmer from Weakley County, added though that “this argument will not be lost on animal rights. If it’s lost at all, it will be on constitutionality.”

Haslam has until May 15 to sign the bill, veto it or let it become law without his signature.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story mistakenly identified the author of the U.S. Supreme Court case referenced as Chief Justice John Roberts.

Amelia Morrison Hipps and Mark Engler contributed to this report.

Liberty and Justice NewsTracker

DA, Sheriff Criticize Animal-Cruelty Reporting Measure

While Gov. Bill Haslam weighs his options regarding legislation sitting on his desk that opponents have dubbed the “Ag Gag” bill, the chorus of condemnation continues to grow.

Earlier this week two prominent Tennessee crime-fighters told TNReport they have concerns about the bill from a policing standpoint. The state’s longest serving district attorney as well as the president of the Tennessee Sheriff’s Association are saying the legislation is flawed to such degree that enforcement and prosecutions would be problematic if it becomes law.

The bill, sponsored in the state House by Andy Holt, R-Dresden, and in the Senate by Somerville Republican Dolores Gresham, requires anyone “who intentionally” films or photographs animal abuse “for the purpose of documenting the offense” to hand the material over to law enforcement within 48 hours.

It passed handily in the Senate, but by only one vote in the House of Representatives. Both chambers are dominated by the GOP. The governor is also a Republican.

District Attorney General Tommy Thompson, Jr. of the 15th Judicial District called the legislation “an obstruction to justice.”

“This bill is more an industry protection act. It’s a way to prevent people from finding out, because you have to get the trust of the people who are doing it,” said Thompson, a Democrat who for 36 years has served as chief criminal prosecutor for Wilson, Trousdale, Smith, Macon and Jackson counties.

“The people who are doing it are smarter with the law than a lot of the people who are enforcing it,” he added. “They aren’t going to do anything where you can see them until you gain their trust.”

However, a spokeswoman for the Tennessee Farm Bureau, which supports the legislation, told TNReport the measure has been unfairly characterized by media and opponents.

Noting that the bill was initially titled the “Livestock Protection Act” by one of the sponsors, Farm Bureau Executive Vice President Rhedona Rose said the purpose and intent of it is to protect the animals and stop the abuse of the animals. Calling it “Ag Gag” misrepresents what the bill in fact does, she said, which is require people who knowingly witness and record animal abuse to promptly report it to law enforcement officials who can then take steps to stop it immediately.

Rose also pointed to Tennessee’s relatively high score on an Animal Legal Defense Fund assessment of all 50 states’ laws relating to animal treatment as evidence of “how strong we are in dealing with animal abusers.”

“I think the farm community is very frustrated that because of a few bad actors, the entire agriculture farm community is getting a black eye,” Rose said. “They are ready to deal with those who are in fact causing that image and feel like that folks that have proof of that image and knowingly and intentionally go out and capture the proof of that image, they could get it to law enforcement to be dealt with quickly.”

Nevertheless, vocal opponents of the measure, including Republicans like Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris and House Consumer and Human Resources Subcommittee Chairwoman Susan Lynn, have said the bill seems more like a thinly veiled effort to stifle the activities of animal rights activists — that the legislation would in effect “gag” them in the interest of protecting ag and livestock producers.

Thompson, the district attorney, said putting together enough evidence for a prosecution to occur would in fact require more than just one recorded instance of animal abuse. He compared the undercover operations of documenting animal abuse to undercover drug operations.

“If the drug task force had to report their buys within two days, first of all, you would never have enough informants who could get in like that,” he said. “Secondly, if you have to report within two days, the person comes to court and says, ‘That was just the first time I ever did it. I made a mistake. I’m sorry,’ and he may be the biggest drug dealer in town.”

Thompson, who also raises cattle, said the drug task force always tries to do three or four buys from a dealer so they can’t claim it was a casual sale when they come to court.

“You can’t just stand there and take pictures in two days,” said Thompson. “You have to work awhile and let them trust you before you get in position to where the real abuse is going on.”

Thompson added that the bill “doesn’t really have any teeth to it, because anything that is a Class C misdemeanor by fine only gets moved to the bottom of the priority list for law enforcement. There’s so much more important stuff going on.”

Putnam County Sheriff David K. Andrews pretty much agreed with Thompson that the bill has no real teeth and that capturing a one-time incident is basically futile.

“There’s no jail time to it. If a judge issues a pick-up on someone, law enforcement is going to make an effort to pick that person up. But then when you pick him up, what do you do with him?” said Andrews, who last summer was elected to lead the Tennessee Sheriff’s Association.

“If he can’t pay it and won’t pay it, what are you going to do? You can’t put him in jail.”

While the Sheriff’s Association has not taken an official active role in the legislation, Andrews said he used to work undercover and that if you buy drugs from someone just one time, “you might as well not go to court.

“They’re going to say, ‘Well, judge, I really just done this the one time. I was coerced or this or that.’ It sort of takes the teeth out of your prosecution,” Andrews said.

The governor is awaiting an opinion on the bill’s constitutionality from the state attorney general before deciding whether to signs it, veto it or let it become law without is endorsement.

Amelia Morrison Hipps may be reached at, on Twitter @DwnHomePolitics or at 615-442-8667.

Liberty and Justice

‘Ag-Gag’ on Guv’s Desk; AG Yet to Opine

Rep. Mike Stewart, who voted against the so-called “ag-gag” bill, is still waiting for an Attorney General’s opinion on the constitutionality of the legislation, which arrived on Gov. Bill Haslam’s desk only just at the end of last week.

Haslam has until May 15 to veto it, sign it or let it become law automatically without his endorsement.

The bill, sponsored in the state House by Andy Holt, R-Dresden, and in the Senate by Somerville Republican Dolores Gresham, requires anyone who films or photographs animal abuse to hand the material over to law enforcement within 48 hours. The Legislation passed both chambers last month.

Even though the bill passed the House on April 17, its last hurdle in the General Assembly, the speakers of the two chambers did not sign it until May 1.

Kara Owen, deputy chief of staff for communications and policy for House Speaker Rep. Beth Harwell, said it was a logistics issue. She said it was not uncommon when there are so many bills that pass the last few days of the session for there to be a delay in having them engrossed and sent to the proper speaker’s office for his or her signature.

On the day the bill passed the House, Stewart, a Democrat, asked for a state attorney general’s opinion “to see if it violates the first amendment as it relates to freedom of the press and how it will affect the proprietary rights to their work product such as video or photographs taken as part of the undercover investigation.”

As of Tuesday morning, no opinion had been issued by Attorney General Robert Cooper’s office. However, the Nashville legislator’s assistant Delano Brent said she did receive an email from the AG’s office that stated an opinion could be issued by Friday.

Supporters contend that the measure is meant to encourage whistleblowers to come forward and stop illegal treatment of animals as quickly as possible. Critics, however, argue that it is actually an industry protection law, created to stop journalists and animal rights groups from gathering enough evidence to prove cases of continuing abuse.

Holt told TNReport on the legislative session’s final day that after discussing the measure with Haslam, he’s confident that it would become law. He also defended the intentions behind the legislation, charging that the Humane Society of the U.S. was demonizing it to raise money.

“The truest intent of this bill is to protect animals – especially from ongoing investigations like we’ve seen many times in the past from HSUS,” Holt said. “This is a radical animal activist group that raises literally hundreds of millions of dollars.”

Rep. Susan Lynn, a Republican, voted against the bill saying it violates free speech and that it criminalizes those who are seeking to stop animal abuse. On the day of the House vote, Lynn said the bill “is coercion by government of the worst kind.”

Lynn said she talked to Haslam before the last session and asked him to wait before signing it until the Attorney General opinion had come back.

The Mt. Juliet representative also noted that the bill did not go through the House Judiciary Committee after the criminal statute was added to it as an amendment in the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee. She said that move was wrong.

Opponents to the bill include lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, the HSUS, as well as celebrities like Carrie Underwood, Emmylou Harris and Ellen DeGeneres. On Friday, members of the Clergy for Justice faith community delivered a letter to Haslam urging him not to sign it.

Last week, the governor said he had not made up his mind how he will proceed with the legislation. He said he sympathizes with farmers, while also understanding the arguments against it.

While the bill passed in the Senate 22-9, it passed in the House 50-43-2 on a razor’s edge. One vote less and it would have failed for lack of majority, making an override of a veto unlikely.

Amelia Morrison Hipps may be reached at, on Twitter @DwnHomePolitics or at 615-442-8667.

John Klein Wilson contributed to this story.



Liberty and Justice NewsTracker

Controversial Livestock Abuse Legislation Passes House, Goes to Governor

After almost two hours of debate, a contentious livestock-abuse reporting bill cleared the state House of Representatives Wednesday with the minimal vote necessary for a chamber majority, 50-42-2.

The legislation requires individuals who record cruelty to livestock to submit those unedited images to law enforcement within 48 hours or face being charged with a Class C misdemeanor.

Tennessee Code Annotated defines livestock as “all equine as well as animals which are being raised primarily for use as food or fiber for human utilization or consumption, including, but not limited to, cattle, sheep, swine, and goats.” The bill does not apply to dogs, cats or chickens, although some argued it should.

Passage in the House was a hard-fought battle on the part of House Bill 1191 sponsor, Rep. Andy Holt, who has argued from the beginning that the purpose of the bill is stop animal abuse as soon as possible.

“How long do you think an animal should have to suffer before the perpetrator is brought to justice?” the Republican from Dresden asked in his closing remarks before the vote. “I particularly believe we should bring that individual to justice as quickly as possible. Others, who oppose this bill, feel like four, five, six months is appropriate, and I completely and wholeheartedly disagree.”

Holt said nothing in the bill would prohibit a person investigating a suspected livestock abuse situation from continuing that investigation after he had turned in the video tape or photographs of the first incident recorded.

Delaying law enforcement while individuals or animal rights groups built cases through continued documentation of abuse was only one argument against the bill, which was bipartisan in its criticism.

The most contentious argument came from Republican Rep. Vance Dennis, who argued that the bill is “unenforceable because you can’t arrest someone for the crime you’re creating.” 

“You cannot arrest for a fine-only misdemeanor. You can cite for not coming to court, but if the person doesn’t come to court, you have no means of enforcement, “ said Dennis, an attorney from Savannah.

Rep. Susan Lynn, R-Mt. Juliet, argued that by attaching a criminal offense to the legislation, “This bill is coercion by government of the worst kind.”

Other arguments raised in the House were much the same as those raised in the Senate on Tuesday, where the legislation passed 22-9, with four Republicans joining five Democrats in voting no.

Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris brought an amendment that would have rewritten the bill and would have required “any person who has knowledge of or observes” an animal being abused to report it to law enforcement immediately.

However, Senate Bill 1248 sponsor Sen. Delores Gresham moved successfully to kill Norris’ effort, which was tabled on a 17-10 vote.

“Obviously, it’s not the attempt of the sponsor of the bill to make every citizen who might find themselves in a situation where they might observe this to make them a criminal. But indeed that’s essentially what this bill does,” said Gresham, a Republican from Somerville, about the Norris amendment.

Norris, a Republican from Collierville, shot back, “Either you’re opposed to animal abuse or you’re not, and that’s why this amendment is designed to get to the root of the problem. The sponsor says she doesn’t want to criminalize animal abuse in general, just the filming of it. If you see abuse, you need to report it, whether you’re filming it or not.”

Sen. Charlotte Burks, D-Monterey, rose in support of the bill because, “As a farmer, I’ve got livestock, and sometimes people don’t understand the proper handling of livestock. … It could be misunderstood and it could waste a lot of our DA’s time.”

Sen. Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro, again cited the link between those who commit animal abuse at an early age and those who commit child and/or spousal abuse as an adult.

Equally as passionate in favor of the bill, Sen. Mike Bell, R-Riceville, expressed outrage at the United States Humane Society for holding the video of soring of a Tennessee walking horse in Collierville for four months before releasing it in May 2012.

Amelia Morrison Hipps may be reached at, on Twitter @DwnHomePolitics or at 615-442-8667.

Press Releases

TFA Fears GOP Will Avoid Gun Rights Legislation Again in 2012

Newsletter from the Tennessee Firearms Association; Dec. 7, 2011:

Republican Party House Caucus

After the less than triumphant 2011 Legislative session in the Tennessee House under the leadership of Speaker Beth Harwell, it appeared that perhaps the rank and file House Republicans realized the impact that their “omissions” had had on the firearms owners of Tennessee who helped put them into office. On July 13, 2011, Rep. Gerald McCormick (House Republican Caucus Leader) released a letter to caucus members in which he announced the creation of the “Republican Caucus Firearms Issues Task Force” (for the House of Representatives). That letter provides (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.

On July 14, 2011, TFA sent an email to all members of the Republican caucus task force as well as to House leaders and Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey. That communication outlined the issues that TFA has focused on during the last 16 years and also the issues on which we had prioritized some legislative focus.

Recently, TFA was asked if we had looked forward to progress with Republican control of state government in 2011 as a “perfrect storm” and by most respects one could say that in 2010 that was the perspective and hope for 2011. TFA had hope that the years of promises from the Republican leadership would materialize. Indeed, Tennesseans have been told by Speaker Harwell that the House Republican Caucus is 100% for the Second Amendment. But, sadly, we knew from her own votes that this could not be true. We can look at what was introduced and failed to pass in 2011 in the House to gauge the factual accuracy of her assertion. We can now look back at 2011 and assess that the predicted “perfect storm” was perhaps a drizzle at best. It does have to be viewed with rememberance of who is in leadership. At this point, we can look forward with caution to 2012 to see if 2011 was a mere oversight or whether it was an intended disregard of prior political promises.

Nevertheless, as the July announcement of the House Republican caucus task force was made, the announcement itself gave some evidence that Rep. McCormick was aware of 2011, the response of Tennessee’s gun owners to the 2011 legislative events, and the need to take seriously the task of evaluated state law in light of the constitutionally protected rights of citizens. TFA realized that the actions of this task force concerning how seriously it undertakes the task of removing infringements and enabling law abiding citizens to purchase, own, possess, carry, use, hunt with and recreationally enjoy firearms as well as the actions of the Republican Caucus in response to the task force’s anticipated report would be a benchmark for the 2012 legislative session as well as the 2012 elections.

The initial meeting of the task force was cancelled almost immediately after the chairman of the task force was arrested in Nashville on DUI charges and also charged with possession of a handgun while under the influence of alcohol. Most unfortunate from many perspectives.

News reports (e.g., Chattanooga Times Free Press) initially indicated that Rep. McCormick was going to cancel the task force. Then, within a few days, news reports stated that Speaker Pro Tempore Judd Matheny, who has a solid record supporting Second Amendment rights, had offered to chair the task force and continue with the mission. It was said that the task force would meet at some point after Thanksgiving. Although TFA’s leadership had been in contact with ALL task force members, none of them notified TFA’s leadership that the task force had scheduled a meeting for Monday following Thanksgiving. One TFA director received a call sometime on the Sunday perhaps less than 24 hours prior to the meeting and was able to make arrangements to be there. However, there was NO general notice that the task force was meeting and it was poorly attended. It was not video streamed. It met briefly and was only partially attended by those appointed to serve on it. It has been reported that one or more additional meetings should be held. This effort, at this point, pales in comparision to the kinds of meetings that were held back in the 1996 time frame when the Speaker’s office directed that the House Judiciary actually conduct hearings and a study on fixing the handgun permit law.

So, as mid-December is upon us, the constitutionally based conservatives in Tennessee, Tennessee’s firearms owners, and those who had worked to place perceived conservatives in office, the image of what 2012 might bring is starting to emerge like a prophecy from the fog of the future and it seems disappointingly reflective of what happened in the Tennessee General Assembly in 2012. Perhaps that is exactly the commandment coming from the Speaker’s office and from some of the others in leadership.

Rather than a year of legislative success, 2012 may well turn into a year where once again constitutionally based conservatives will be looking for candidates in primaries and general elections who will – independent of party designation – honor, uphold and respect not only the constitutions but the rights that these constitutions themselves recognize as pre-existing and otherwise established.

A word of clarification — there are some members of the legislature, including some in leadership, who feel that TFA and gunowners are being unfair on Republicans. They assert that the Republican caucuses are the “best friend” of Tennessee’s conservatives, gun owners and even TFA. By “best friend”, they may really mean “better than the Democrat caucus”. It is perfectly clear by their own actions which individuals in the General Assembly and other parts of state government are truly conservatives who take the oath to uphold the Constitution – all of the Constitution – as a bedrock on which the sacrifices of public service and stewardship must be based. It is also abundantly clear which individuals in state government are not “100%” behind the Second Amendment and instead use it perhaps as nothing more than a part of the campaign “toolkit” to get and keep political power.

Gun Show Promoter Declares “Gun Show Loophole” Exists

This week, the Tennessean and local news stations have been giddy with reports that a former gun show promoter and Second Amendment advocate has announced that there is in fact a “gun show loophole” and has asserted that the State of Tennessee must take steps to close it.

Actually, the law is clear that there is no “loophole”. What some people are falsely calling a “loophole” is actually the application of what is commonly referred to under both federal and state law as the “casual sale exception.” Under the law, individuals and entities who are “in the business” of dealing in firearms are required to have a federal firearms license. Under the law, only those individuals who are federally licensed can and are required to do “Brady” background checks when they make retail sales of firearms to individuals or entities that do not have federal dealer licenses. As part of the law, the policy decision was made and has existed for a long time that there is no constitional (“commerce clause”) or policy basis to require private citizens who are not “in the business” of dealing in firearms to perform formal background checks when they transfer (including sales, trades and gifts) personal firearms.

The gun show loophole is frequently cited by gun-control groups as a basis to end or more heavily regulate gun shows. The gun control advocates claim that guns are sold at shows without the required background checks and/or that criminals often use these shows to acquire guns illegally. However, gun shows are regulated in the same manner as all other gun sales. Federally licensed firearms dealers, who by far are the actual sellers of the firearms at gun shows, are required by law to perform the Brady / FBI background checks before selling them a firearm to an individual. This requirement applies no matter where the sale takes place – including gun shows. As noted above, those who are not firearms dealers (licensed or unlicensed) are not required to perform the background check. Consequently, if a private individual wants to sell their gun collection, he or she can rent a table at a gun show (if the promoter allows unlicensed individuals to rent tables) and they are subject to the same laws as if they sold the gun online, in a newspaper ad, to a hunting buddy or at a garage sale.

Gun control groups suggest that criminals prefer to get guns at gun shows and that closing the “loophole” is really just good crime prevention. However, government statistics actually prove that the number of criminals who get guns at gun shows is statistically insignificant. Bureau of Justice statistics show that less than .7% of criminals get their guns at gun shows. In the statistics, most criminals (78.8%) get their guns off the street or from family members. So, the real target, the primary victim of the “gun show loophole” claims are the law-abiding gun owners and enthusiasts.

This week’s news reports proclaim that former gun show promoter, Bob Pope, is himself proposing that there is a “gun show loophole” and that the State of Tennessee needs to pass legislation requiring that all individuals who do not have a federal firearms license would be prohibited from selling personal firearms at or about gun shows unless they do a TBI background check on the proposed purchaser. It raises the questionof whether this is sadly more 2nd Amendment infringements from a former promoter or perhaps just a means of protecting the financial interests of those licensed dealers who pay gun show promoters for tables?

It is interesting that on one of the TV news reports, the other person interviewed was a gun store owner – someone who might benefit at a gun show from eliminating or minimizing the ability of private citizens to engage in “casual sales”. Chris Tenpenny at Nashville Sporting Arms apparently supports Bob Pope’s idea that the casual sale exception which has been a part of federal law since, well since federal law starting regulating the sales of firearms, should be amended to require that all sales of guns by individuals must go through background checks – at least if the individual wants to sell a personal firearm in or at a gun show.

Channel 5 news in Nashville ran this story: … -criminals

by Amanda Hara

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Are gun shows a gateway for criminals to buy firearms? One local man thinks so.

For more than two decades, Bob Pope ran gun shows in the Mid-state.

But now he’s asking for a new law that would make sure convicted felons aren’t buying guns, or unloading stolen ones, at gun shows.

Bob Pope started running gun shows in 1983, and retired in 2008. During that time, he said he noticed a major flaw in the industry.

“If I was a criminal and I wanted to buy a high powered glock I would go to the Gun Show,” said Pope.

Pope said felons show up at gun shows to buy firearms; not from dealers who require a background check, but from other patrons of the show because they know a background check isn’t required for a private party sale.

Pope proposed a new law that would require background checks on any gun sale at gun shows, even transactions between private parties. Not just to prevent felons from getting guns, but also to protect buyers.

“I like that I do not wish to buy a stolen gun because in the future I could lose that gun if I ever had it run I could lose the gun,” said Pope.

Local gun dealers seemed on board with the proposal.

Chris Tenpenny owns Nashville Sporting Arms.

“The background check is not just a thing that’s done on the individual it’s also running the background history on the gun. The last thing I’d want to do is go to a gun show and buy a gun from an individual that was used in a crime or was stolen. You don’t know anything about that gun or where it came from,” he said.

Of course none of this is going over well with some gun advocates

But Pope said he’s as pro-gun as they come and a strong advocate of the second amendment.

Pope said, “This deal is a crime prevention thing that makes sure convicted felons are not buying their guns illegally that’s all it is.”

Pope said he’d like to see Gun Show Organizers pay the TBI to set up one agent at every show who background checks every gun that’s bought and sold. Pope said those with Carry Permits would be exempt from paying a $10 fee for the check.

Similarly, the Tennessean newspaper reported this week that Bob Pope has met with Congressman Jim Cooper (oh, another noted supporter of the Second Amendment) to discuss his proposal to close the “loophole”. Gail Kerr, of the Tennessan, reported in her column:

Let there be no doubt: Bob Pope is a gun-packing Republican. The sixth-generation Tennessean is a Newt Gingrich-supporting Second Amendment advocate who ran gun shows for 25 years.

But he said his buddies in the Tennessee Firearms Association are irritated by his one-man campaign to close the so-called “gun show loophole,” which he claims allows murderers and thieves to buy stolen guns.

“If I was going to buy an illegal gun, I’d go to a gun show and buy it,” said Pope, a towering man perched on an old-fashioned wing chair in the formal living room of his Hermitage home near the Wilson County line.

The two-story Colonial stays locked behind a wrought-iron driveway gate sporting decorative replicas of handguns. Clocks bong the hour. Bright-colored silk roses are perched in a vase. Pope looked like John Wayne visiting his grandmother’s parlor as he explained his plan.

He met with U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper but decided his best bet was with the state legislature. He has meetings set up with GOP lawmakers. Given a chance, he’d testify.

“I started doing gun shows in 1983, sold out in 2008,” Pope said. “I saw the gun shows change, really not for the good.”

The three-day shows, held at expos and fairgrounds, allow dealers and individuals to buy, sell and trade guns.

“Currently, I would estimate, on the low side, there are over 100 gun shows across the state of Tennessee every year,” Pope said. “On the low side, there are 1,000 guns without any records sold at every show, every day.”

There’s no way to prove that, because statistics on those sales don’t exist.

Licensed dealers are allowed to buy and sell at the shows. If you buy a gun from them, they run a check with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation to make sure that you are at least 18 and not a felon, and that the gun was not stolen. This costs the buyer $10.

But if an individual sells a gun to a buyer at a gun show, there are no checks. That’s the loophole Pope wants changed. Every gun sale at a show should require the duel TBI check, he says.

Pope says the system allows people who break into houses and steal guns to easily resell them. It allows felons to buy guns.

Not ‘gun control’ but ‘crime control’

“I’m hard-core Second Amendment,” said Pope, a boisterous and opinionated man. “But I also believe citizens should be able to walk around or sit on their front porch without bullets flying.”

Criminals, he said, “should not have guns. This tells the purchaser at a gun show he’s buying a clean gun. It tells felons to find somewhere else to go.”

The money from the $10 fee would pay for the TBI to do the extra checks, he said.

“It’s the only way you can control gun violence in this state.”

The Republican-led legislature has a task force about to debate a slew of gun laws. Most would loosen things up.

As far as Pope is concerned, legal owners should be able to carry their gun anywhere they want. But the gun show loophole needs to be closed.

Isn’t that somewhat ironic? He doesn’t see it.

“What I’m talking about hasn’t a darn thing to do with gun control,” Pope said. “It has to do with crime control.”

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Press Releases

GOP Firearms Task Force Announced

Press Release from House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, July 13, 2011:

Majority Leader Gerald McCormick Appoints GOP Firearms Issue Task Force

(July 13, 2011, NASHVILLE) – On Wednesday, House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick (R—Chattanooga) announced the appointment of seven Members of the House of Representatives to the Republican Caucus Firearms Issues Task Force. The group is charged with “studying current State laws to identify if any changes may need to be made” and will meet with outside groups to “gain a better understanding” of the issues surrounding the Second Amendment rights of Tennesseans.

Representative Curry Todd (R—Collierville) was named the Chairman of the Task Force. Additionally, Speaker Pro Tempore Judd Matheny (R—Tullahoma), Representative Joshua Evans (R—Greenbrier), Representative Andy Holt (R—Dresden), Representative Barrett Rich (R—Somerville), Representative Glen Casada (R—Franklin), and Representative John Forgety (R—Athens) were named to the group. The Task Force intends to meet when other scheduled legislative committees meet such as the Fiscal Review Committee or summer study groups meet.

“This Task Force will study ways we can protect the Second Amendment rights of Tennesseans and will make recommendations to our Majority about good public policy we all can support,” said Majority Leader McCormick. “I think this is a worthwhile effort to streamline the process and build consensus within the General Assembly. I look forward to hearing what Chairman Todd and the group report back to us.”

Rep. Todd explained, “It is an honor to lead this working group so our Majority can craft responsible public policy that reflects the values of Tennesseans. This group will work hard to make common sense recommendations to the Majority in order to build consensus about what our legislative priorities for firearms need to be next session. ”

Rep. Rich added, “This group will examine all perspectives on the issues surrounding firearms and the Second Amendment and that is always good for public policy. Tennessee is well-known as a State that promotes responsible firearm ownership and we need to make sure our laws reflect that principle. I will always advocate for our law-abiding citizens’ right to own a gun and this is a way to do just that.”

“This is a unique way for us to hear directly from Tennesseans about how we can protect and potentially strengthen their gun rights,” said Rep. Holt. “I believe we can build consensus by bringing all sides together and creating sensible policy proposals from their feedback.”

Leader McCormick announced the appointments in a letter to all Members of the House Republican Majority. The full text of the letter is below:

July 13, 2011 

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.


Gerald McCormick