Ramsey reminisces: ‘Open carry’ vote surprised himself, other senators

In a post-session news conference, Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey said he and other senators were surprised when Sen. Mae Beavers put an “open carry” gun bill up for a Senate floor for a vote, thinking she intended to delay consideration to see if the House version would remain stuck in a House subcommittee.

“I was caught a little off guard,” said Ramsey. “I’m standing on the dais. What do I do?”

Well, he voted for the bill (SB2424), which would allow anyone who can legally own a firearm to carry it openly without a handgun permit. It passed 25-2 on April 8 with the only two no votes coming from Senate Democratic Caucus Chairman Lowe Finney of Jackson and Sen. Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown.

“Let me assure you, there were many of our members who (were thinking), did that really just pass?,” said Ramsey. “That was one of the most interesting votes I’ve ever seen on the Senate floor: relatively little debate and I think that bill does deserve better debate.

“I feel like the carry-permit system we have now is a good one, that we have a bright line between the good guys and the bad guys, so to speak,” Ramsey said.

The bill was subsequently killed in the House Finance Subcommittee by a lopsided vote – 10 noes, just one yes. The yes came from Rep. David Hawk, R-Greeneville.

Ramsey predicted that the proposal is “something we’ll have to address every year” in the future.