Gun Bills May Be De-emphasized Next Year (or maybe not)

While the House Republican leader has indicated that expansion of gun owner rights may be de-emphasized in the coming legislative session, the sponsor of pending gun bills sees no reason for putting off action.
“I can walk and chew gum at the same time. We (legislators) can act on jobs and constitutional freedoms at the same time,” said Sen. Stacey Campfield, R-Knoxville.
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 with the gun task force,” he said. “I don’t think we need to push those issues right now.”
Campfield said publicity surrounding the arrest of Todd has “not been beneficial” to pushing gun rights legislation forward, but should not be a negative either.
Todd was sponsor of a bill enacted two years ago that allows holders of handgun carry permits to take their weapons into establishments that sell alcoholic beverages.
“We didn’t ban cigars after Bill Clinton,” Campfield said. “Just because one person did something stupid doesn’t mean the cause of freedom should stop.”
Specifically, Campfield said he still intends to push actively for passage of a bill that would allow faculty and staff of colleges and universities to carry guns on campus if they have a carry permit. The House sponsor of that bill, Rep. Andy Holt, R-Dresden, is a member of the Republican Firearms Task Force.
The Campfield-Holt bill was adamantly opposed by officials of the University of Tennessee and Board of Regents systems in the last legislative session. Regents Vice Chancellor David Gregory said last week he expects the issue to be an active one again in 2012 and that higher education leaders will work against passage.
While there have been suggestions that Todd’s plight could prompt legislators to reconsider the “guns in bars” law, enacted over the veto of former Gov. Phil Bredesen, Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey scoffed at that notion.
Asked if Todd’s arrest indicated shortcomings in the law, Ramsey said, “Using that same analogy, then he (Todd) broke the law driving a car, too, and I guess we need to take all cars away from people.”
“We were the 36th state to adopt this (a law allowing guns in bars). There wasn’t one documented case (then) of someone going into a bar, a gun permit holder, and using their firearm. There’s still not,” said Ramsey.

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