Both yours truly and Andy Sher have Sunday stories on the ongoing gunfight at the Legislature, which maybe could come to a head this week. Then again, maybe not. Suspicions are that the legislation is a good candidate for being postponed into oblivion and/or getting into such a confused mess that everyone can say he/she supported something, but nothing passed..
Excerpt from the News Sentinel:
Caught in a lobbying crossfire between Second Amendment activists and Tennessee’s biggest businesses, state legislators are searching for a compromise on legislation to protect gun owners from “discrimination” by their employers.
Three interrelated bills are scheduled for votes in House and Senate committees in the coming week after hours of conflicting testimony from both sides and an onslaught of emails and telephone calls to legislators.
Sen. Mike Faulk, R-Church Hill, who is sponsor of two bills drafted by the National Rifle Association, at one point declared the legislation could collectively be called “the full lobbyist employment acts of 2012.” One of the two NRA-drafted bills (SB3002) declares that employers must permit employees to bring guns to work, provided they are left in a locked private vehicle in the employer’s parking lot during work hours. It applies to both public and private employers.
Heidi Keesling, a Washington-based NRA lobbyist, told legislators that 16 other states have adopted similar laws. The movement began in Oklahoma, she said, after a company fired long-term employees with clean records simply because guns were found in their cars. Oklahoma’s law has withstood legal challenges, she said.
…The second NRA bill (SB2992), titled “The Firearms Discrimination Prevention Act,” prohibits employers from requiring employees to disclose any information on whether they own or use guns unless guns are part of their job duties. It also prohibits companies from basing hiring, firing or benefits on gun ownership or use.
Employers violating provisions of the proposed law could face a lawsuit from the penalized employee, including punitive damages.
Keesling said the “anti-discrimination” bill goes hand-in-glove with SB3002, providing a way for employees to enforce the rights they would get under the “guns in parking lots” bill. In some other states with parking lot bills, she said employers have tried to bypass the law by having workers or job applicants fill out forms listing guns they own, including serial numbers, forcing them to sign waivers of rights and otherwise engaging in “a kind of harassment.”
Opponents said the bill is hostile to business and will hurt job recruitment efforts by creating a new avenue for harassing lawsuits by disgruntled employees. Gun owners would have rights to sue for discrimination on footing similar to those who can sue claiming discrimination on the basis or age, gender or disability, they said.
….House Republican Leader Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga, has filed a third bill (HB3660) with compromise in mind. McCormick said he is working on an amendment to rewrite the measure to incorporate a compromise.
Excerpt from the Chattanooga Times-Free Press:
McCormick’s compromise restricts the NRA bill, which currently covers any gun owner, to the 300,000 or so Tennesseans with state-issued handgun-carry permits. Permit holders already undergo criminal background checks and must complete a gun-safety course.
It allows businesses in sensitive areas, such as those processing nuclear waste, to continue barring guns. It also allows businesses to post signs banning guns, McCormick said.
The compromise is that the bill would also prevent business owners from searching vehicles without valid cause. And it provides limited liability for business owners who allow permit holders to store their weapons in locked vehicles.
“Instead of forcing it we would incentivize it,” McCormick added.
That being said, McCormick noted, “I would still rather wait until next year to take this up. I think we ought to be talking about jobs rather than guns.”
The U.S. Constitution, he said, “was written in order to protect people from the power of government, and I think in this case if we went with the original bill that would be using the Constitution to infringe upon people’s rights, their property rights.”
McCormick said he’s a lifetime NRA member. “I believe in the Second Amendment,” McCormick said, but “it doesn’t trump all the rights that we have, particularly property rights. We have to be very careful.”
Last week, Tennessee Firearms Executive Director John Harris criticized McCormick’s bill, slated to come up in a House subcommittee Wednesday.
In an email alert, Harris also fired a warning shot across the bow of his larger competitor, the NRA, stating that if a compromise comes up, it “will likely be negotiated and offered with the blessings of the NRA’s lobbyist.”
Harris charged “these delay tactics are designed to kill both bills. Do not fall victim to these ploys.”