By Erik Schelzg, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The state Senate on Monday passed a bill to give people with handgun carry permits the right to store their loaded firearms in their vehicles wherever they are parked, brushing aside concerns raised by businesses and higher education administrators in Tennessee.
The chamber voted 28-5 to approve the bill sponsored by Republican Speaker Ron Ramsey of Blountville after rejecting Democratic efforts to add potential exclusions for businesses if they were approved by the state Department of Safety.
“If you allow people to come onto your parking lot then they have the right to have that firearm in the car,” Ramsey told reporters before the vote.
Ramsey has been pushing for the quick adoption of the bill to avoid a repeat of a drawn out fight last year between gun advocates and the business lobby.
The failure of last year’s bill ended up costing House Republican Caucus Chairwoman Debra Maggart her legislative seat when the National Rifle Association and other gun advocates later bankrolled her primary opponent.
Sen. Charlotte Burks of Monterey, one of the five Democrats to vote against the measure after a 24-minute debate on Monday, asked whether supporters had had persuaded large employers such as automaker Volkswagen AG to drop their objection to giving up the right to ban firearms from their parking lots.
“Some are comfortable some are not,” responded Sen. Jack Johnson, R-Franklin and a co-sponsor of the measure. “There are some in the business community … who maybe wanted to go a slightly different direction.”
Ramsey and other supporters have noted that state law that already allows non-student adults to have guns stored in vehicles parked in school or college parking lots. The bill approved Monday would extend that right any handgun carry permit holder.
The companion bill is scheduled to be heard in a House subcommittee on Wednesday, where the property rights arguments and campus concerns are expected to get a more extensive hearing.
House Civil Justice Subcommittee Chairman Jim Coley of Bartlett drew the ire of some fellow Republicans in 2011 for a legislative maneuver that effectively killed that year’s proposal allow faculty and staff to carry guns on the campuses of public colleges and universities.
He would only say Monday that the current measure will get a full hearing on his panel later this week.
“I always allow people to talk on the bills,” he said. “Whoever has any questions about the bill, they’ll have an opportunity to speak on the bill.”