Press Release from the Tennessee Firearms Association; May 3, 2011:
Tennessee Firearms Association, Inc.
Status of Firearms and Conservative Legislation
The 2011 session is drawing to an end as the committees are starting to wrap up their business and close. The message for Tennessee’s firearms owners, for Tennessee’s hunters, for Tennessee’s Tea Party members, for Tennessee’s conservatives and constitutionalists is that this is not a year in which promises made that existing infringements on firearms owners and citizens would be repealed, withdrawn or acceptably addressed. That message must be burned into our memories much as the Ten Commandments were burned into tablets of stone by God for Moses so that our actions in 2012 can be governed by historical fact.
This is particularly troubing since the Republicans have overwhelming control of both houses of the General Assembly as well as a Governor who has promised on video to TFA members that he would sign a law repealing the necessity that citizens obtain expensive and costly “permits” in order to exercise the rights guaranteed to them by the Tennessee Constitution and the 2nd Amendment to the United States Constitution (through the 14th Amendment). The Republicans, and many of them would, have full power and capacity to fix these issues. However, it is apparent that Republican leadership, particularly or more specifically in the House, is unwilling to have these promises materialize.
Now, it must be noted, however, that this is not solely a Republican issue notwithstanding the fact that the Republican party was fully empowered by the citizens of this State in 2010 to honor these promises. There are many, many in the House and some in the Senate who are simply not going to support Tennessee’s citizens as firearms owners, as constitutionalists or as conservatives.
There are two specific bills which can be examined to support these statements.
House Bill 1072 – Special “Classes” of Citizens?
A first example arises out of Tennessee’s citizens and the Tennessee Firearms Association having a long history of opposing any legislation which has the effect of creating different classes of civilians with respect to the right of self-defense and the capacity to carry firearms as civilians. This most commonly arises under the theme of making special exceptions to the general firerams possessions laws and self-defense laws for classes of “off duty” individuals including police officers, law enforcement officers, and various state and local officials (including judges and district attorneys).
Most commonly, this issue arises, as it did today, when a legislator or law enforcement officer proclaims that “off duty officers have a duty to protect others.” That assertion is simply false. Indeed, even on-duty officers have no specific duty to intervene and protect anyone – period. That issue has been addressed repeatedly by the courts and repeatedly is has been stated that there is no duty of any on or off duty law enforcement officer to render aid to stop a crime in any specific instance. Simple Google the issue. One of the more recent Supreme Court cases on this issue is Town of Castle Rock v. Gonzales, 04-278 (opinion). See also, DeShaney v. Winnebago County Department of Social Services, 109 S.Ct. 998 (1989).
With respect to Tennessee specifically, Tennessee recognizes the “public duty” rule. Under that rule, law enforcement owe a general duty to the public only. “In the absence of special circumstances, there is no duty resting upon a municipality or other governmental body to provide police protection to any particular person, and it may not be held liable for its failure to do so.” Seidner v. Metropolitan Gov’t, No. 01A01-9012-CV-00451, 1991 WL 66440, at *4 (Tenn.App. May 1, 1991).
Furthermore, the Tennessee Supreme Court has rejected the assertion that police officers are “on duty” 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. To the contrary, the court has noted that off duty officers are simply citizens like any other citizen and have no special privileges or duties. “…., while most states decline to impose vicarious liability on private employers because police officers have a continuous duty to keep the peace and enforce the law, we can find no corresponding statute or rule of law in this state that places a mandatory duty upon police officers to keep the peace when “off duty.” To the contrary, when officers are “off duty,” our statutes generally treat the officer as an ordinary private citizen and not as an agent or employee of the municipal police department under a general duty to keep the peace.”
White v. Revco Discount Drug Centers, Inc., 33 S.W.3d 713, 721 (Tenn.,2000.) (emphasis added)
Thus, the assertions of the FOP and those supportive of law enforcement that off duty or even retired law enforcement should be entitled to a special class of citizenship vis-a-vis the right of self-defense fails because the premise on which the argument is based is contrary to the law that these law enforcement interests have pursued when individual liability was at issue. They cannot have it both ways.
It is not that TFA is anti-law enforcement. TFA is however against the creation of special classes of citizenship when it comes to the fundamental right of self-defense but that, it seems, is something that does not bother many of our elected legislators.
Against this backdrop, we have HB 1072 by Rep. Barrett Rich and its companion Senate bill SB 0839 by Sen. Mike Bell. On May 3, the House Judiciary approved HB1072 on a voice vote. The bill creates a special class of “civilians”, again off duty law enforcement, who can come and go as they pleased while fully armed on school grounds whereas “ordinary” citizens (those with civilian carry permits) are not treated as the same class of citizens. This legislation continues to evidence a willingness and a mentality of those in the legislature that “off duty” officers have higher duties than civilians and are entitled to a higher degree to latitude in providing for their self-defense and the defense of their families.
If you feel that all citizens should have the same rights relative to self-defense, then you may not support this bill. If you feel that there should not be “special classes” of citizens relative to the issue of self-defense and personal defense, then you may not support this bill. If you do not agree with HB1072 / SB0839 then you should contact your elected officials as well as the bills’ sponsors and let them know how you feel about the Legislature continually trying to create these special classes and special exceptions. All citizens should be treated the same when they are “off duty” without regard to what their job is or was. House Bill 2021 – Employee Self Defense or Big Business
The second bill that deserves attention is HB2021 (Rep. Joshua Evans). This is the “promised” legislation that would have protected employees with civilian handgun permits from being criminally prosecuted or terminated from employment “for cause” if they commuted to work in possession of their handgun and left that firearm secured in their car in the parking lot.
As previously reported, the bill made it to the House Floor and, just prior to being amended to restore the protection to the employees, was moved back to the House Judiciary Committee by the sponsor (Evans) because the bill, as it was on the floor, only granted immunity to those businesses – it offered no protections for the employees. The House Republicans had been heavily lobbied by business and had backed away from their prior promises to employees and voters.
The bill was scheduled to be heard in the House Judiciary on May 3. Several TFA members from across the state took time off and came to Nashville to be present. The House Sponsor (Evans) was not to be found. He did not respond to text messages. Ultimately, the bill was referred by the Judiciary committee to its general subcommittee thereby effectively killing it this year.
Once again, promises are unfulfilled as the desires of “big business” take precedence with the House leadership, which is overwhelmingly Republican. All firearms owner, all hunters, all Tea Partiers, all conservatives should be demanding of the House Republicans to know why promises made are not promises kept. They should also be sternly reminded that votes in 2010 do not necessarily equal repeat votes in 2012.