With guns virtually certain to be a hot topic in the legislative session that begins next week, Sen. Stacey Campfield has becoming something of a point man on two firearm fronts.
A University of Tennessee official, meanwhile, acknowledged that Knoxville Republican is correct in one of his recent contentions related to the gun debate: A little-noticed provision of state law, enacted decades ago, already allows weapons to be kept by many people in locked cars on campus parking lots.
House Speaker Beth Harwell, after a talk with Campfield, has assigned two Republican legislators — Reps. Steve McManus of Cordova and Judd Matheny of Tullahoma — to lead a study of Campfield’s plans for a “don’t ask, don’t tell” law dealing with employees keeping guns in cars parked on employer premises.
McManus and Matheny met with interested parties on Wednesday. McManus said afterward they came to no conclusions, but plan to meet again next week when they will hopefully have a written copy of the Campfield plan to serve as a working draft in seeking a compromise.
The National Rifle Association unsuccessfully pushed a “guns in parking lots” bill last year. Campfield’s proposal is to generally authorize those who may legally possess guns to bring them onto business or government properties so long as the weapons are locked inside a vehicle, much as the failed NRA proposal did. But he adds provisions.
As described by the senator, his bill — unlike the NRA proposal — would further provide that a business could still ban weapons from its premises. Businesses, however, could not ban workers from gun ownership as a condition of employment and they would be prohibited from making searches of cars solely for the purpose of checking for guns.
If an employee was otherwise found violating company policy against having a gun in a car, Campfield said the employee could be fired but could not be criminally prosecuted and would be eligible to receive unemployment benefits.
Harwell said the overall legislation is “not one of my priorities,” but she thought Campfield’s idea was “an interesting proposal” and appreciated the effort to “strike a balance” between gun owner rights and businesses property rights since other legislators seem interested in the issue.”It’s just a base line to begin work,” she said of Campfield’s bill.
Campfield said he has spoken to representatives of both the business lobby and gun rights activists and “both sides seem to like it.”His proposal would apply to government-owned properties as well as businesses — unless federal law prohibits guns on a facility, such as Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
Campfield has also recently contended that a provision of state law already allows a “non-student adult” to keep a gun in a car on school and university campuses.
Anthony Haynes, UT vice president for governmental affairs who attended meetings with Matheny and McManus Wednesday, said he was somewhat surprised to learn that Campfield is generally right.
The statute cited generally bans guns on school premises. But it has an exception — TCA 39-17-1309 C (1) — that says a “non-student adult” may keep a weapon if stored in a vehicle.
That means, Haynes said, UTand the Tennessee Board of Regents may ban students from having guns in their cars. Employees may be banned as well, he said, as a condition of employment. But others may have guns in their cars.
UT generally supports the current law and has “made it work,” Haynes said, but if further efforts are made to allow guns on campus, the issue of repealing the provision cited by Campfield should be part of the discussion.
Campfield said he is also drafting legislation on allowing some handgun permit holders to go armed on school and university campuses. The senator said he is drafting separate bills, one dealing with K-12 schools and the other with college and university campuses.
The K-12 bill, he said, would give schools three options. First, they could have a “school resource officer” trained in law enforcement, as about half statewide do now. Second, they could allow teachers and other employees who hold a handgun carry permit and receive additional training to go armed at schools. Third, schools ignore the first two options but would be required to “guarantee the safety” of people at the school by becoming liable for any injuries suffered there, the senator said