Update on Gun Related Legislative Activity Through March 21

  • Today the House Judiciary Subcommittee moved HB2021 by Rep. Josh Evans to the House Consumer and Employee Affairs Committee. The bill is now being placed on the calendar with three pieces of gun legislation HB 3559 and HB3560 by Rep. Eddie Bass as well as HB 3660 by Rep. Gerald McCormick.
  • In the Senate all gun bills were rolled this week. NRA lobbyists have been working hard pressuring members to adopt the current bills and fight off any amendments that water down the original bills. The NRA will try to amend any legislation that makes it to the floor and will give legislators negative marks on NRA mail pieces that will go out prior to elections if they do not vote for NRA backed amendments.
  • Most importantly, Senator Mike Faulk announced that he would have an amendment to be considered next week for the bill in Senate Judiciary that would “limit the scope” of the initial legislation. See article below from Tom Humphrey of the Knoxville News Sentinel.

Humphrey on the Hill

‘Guns in Parking Lots’ Sponsor Agrees to Narrow Bill’s Coverage

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Republican sponsor of a proposal that would let workers store firearms in vehicles parked on their employers’ lots said Tuesday that he has listened to GOP leaders and plans to amend the legislation so that it’s not so broad.

Sen. Mike Faulk of Kingsport decided to delay the measure a week in the Senate Judiciary Committee. The companion bill is awaiting a vote in a House subcommittee.

Currently, the measure would apply to any legally owned firearm regardless of whether the owner had a state-issued handgun carry permit. It also would apply to any private or public parking lot, meaning guns could be stored at schools or colleges.

Representatives from the state attorney general’s office told the panel on Tuesday that the current proposal is “constitutionally defensible.”

Faulk said the new proposal will apply only to people with handgun carry permits and also will contain exceptions suggested by Republican Gov. Bill Haslam and the GOP legislative leadership.

Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey of Blountville has said he wants the measure to apply only to permit holders, and he and fellow Republican House Speaker Beth Harwell of Nashville have called for incorporating several exceptions included in a 2008 Georgia law, such as secure parking areas and visitors’ parking spots. Georgia also allows employers to ban workers from bringing weapons onto company property if they have been subject to disciplinary action.

Haslam has said the current measure is “a little too broad.”

“The amendments will address the concerns about it being too broad that have been expressed by both speakers and the governor,” Faulk told reporters after the meeting Tuesday night. “And then I believe we’ll be off and running.”

The business and law enforcement groups fear the current bill would infringe on property rights and endanger safety. A number of them have come to the Capitol to speak out against the legislation.

Nevertheless, the National Rifle Association is pressuring Republican lawmakers to abandon limits on the bill.

Faulk said he’s still trying to decide actually what exceptions to carve out.

“The issue there is in what instance are the … customers of the business so vulnerable and so sensitive that you’re willing to deprive that business’ employees the right to defend themselves,” he said. “And that’s hard to articulate.”

Gun Bills Update: NRA Executive Works Plaza

While all but one gun bill was postponed for another week, one development did add to the political dynamic this week.

The Executive Director of the National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action in Fairfax, Va., spent two days walking the halls of Legislative Plaza. Reportedly, the NRA is very unhappy with House and Senate leadership for their willingness to make exceptions to two bills (SB3002/HB3560, and SB2992/HB3559) authored by the NRA.

Exceptions include allowing property and business owners to set gun policies for their properties and retaining current state law on prohibitions on school grounds and college and university campuses.

One gun bill passed: HB3499. It would exempt persons from prosecution if they unknowingly transported firearms without intent to go armed. Some are concerned this is merely a caption bill, serving as a “Trojan Horse” for a broader purpose later in the legislative process. The bill broadly opens a caption that could easily be used for other purposes related to the carrying and possession of firearms.

Thus far, a coalition of business interests, hospitals, and higher education have been successful in getting House and Senate leadership and a number of rank and file members to be sensitive to private property rights and workplace safety ramifications of the legislation. The coalition includes UT, TBR, and the Tennessee Independent Colleges and Universities Association (TICUA) and is encouraging its members and supporters to contact their legislators and ask them to oppose these bills. The groups maintain current state law adequately allows those who need to possess firearms on campuses to do so.