By Erik Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A bill to prevent businesses, schools and colleges from banning firearms in their parking lots was approved by a House subcommittee after a six-minute hearing on Wednesday.
The measure, sponsored by Republican Rep. Jeremy Faison of Cosby, would give the state’s 390,343 handgun carry permit holders the ability to store firearms in their vehicles parked on company or school property.
Faison argued that permit holders who undergo background checks and meet training requirements are “worthy of carrying … and keeping a gun.”
Democratic Rep. Sherry Jones of Nashville was the only member of the panel to raise questions about the measure and to convey her opposition when the bill was advanced to the full House Civil Justice Committee on a voice vote .
“So you could go to church, school, drive down to the guy’s house down the block? Any restaurant, any business anywhere?” she asked, referring to those storing firearms in their vehicles.
Faison noted that only areas governed by federal law would override the measure. Otherwise, he said, permit holders could keep firearms in their vehicles “anywhere, any day — seven days a week and twice on Sunday.”
The change has been opposed by large Tennessee employers like FedEx in Memphis and Volkswagen in Chattanooga, which have raised security and property rights concerns.
The bill’s quick advancement reflects the intent among House Republicans to avoid a repeat of the drawn-out fight over last year’s version.
House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick of Chattanooga said he and colleagues just want to put the measure behind them so they can move on to other issues.
“We can argue about it and then pass it, or we can just pass it,” McCormick said.
Last year’s fight 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.
Faison last week retracted statements made to WPLN-FM in Nashville that suggested he routinely breaks the law by carrying handguns in public without a permit.
“One day I’ll probably get caught if I don’t get a permit, and I’ll get in trouble,” he had told the public radio station.
Faison later said that what he meant to say was that he transports a gun inside his car, which does not require a permit as long as ammunition is stored separately from the firearm.
The full Senate passed its version of the bill on a 28-5 vote on Monday. Republican Gov. Bill Haslam has previously raised concerns about the guns-on-campus element of the measure, but has remained noncommittal on this year’s bill.