Guardsmen with guns get civil immunity, free lawyers

Tennessee National Guard members with state handgun-carry permits, who were authorized last year to bring their firearms into state military facilities, will have both civil immunity and legal representation under a bill that passed the state Senate on Monday in a 32-0 vote, according to the Times-Free Press.

Sen. Richard Briggs, R-Knoxville, said the issue “was brought to our attention after the terrorist attacks in Chattanooga that killed five of our service members.”

Tennessee Adj. Gen. Max Haston last year changed longstanding policy that prohibited National Guard members from carrying their personal firearms at state facilities.

The move came after 24-year-old Mohammad Youssef Abdulazeez attacked a U.S. military recruiting station on Lee Highway and then went on to attack the U.S. Naval and Marine Reserve Center on Amnicola Highway, where he shot and killed or mortally wounded five Marine and Navy reservists.

“What [Haston] could not do and what he brought to our attention is that he could not extend any civil immunity in the event of another terrorist attack or if there was any attack on our members that they needed to defend themselves or others,” Briggs told colleagues. “What this bill does, it extends civil immunity both for personal and property damage to our service members.”

And, said Briggs, a retired U.S. Army colonel, “because this [legal defense] could result in financial ruin of our services members if there’s ever litigation brought against them for their actions we provide legal counsel to those members also.”

Note: It’s SB1760, awaiting a vote in the House Civil Justice Committee.