Category Archives: Guns

Athens workplace killer had TN handgun permit

ATHENS, Tenn. (AP) — A man who fatally shot two supervisors and then killed himself at an electrical components plant in eastern Tennessee had a state-issued permit to carry handguns in public, law enforcement officials said Friday.

Ricky Swafford, who had worked at the Thomas & Betts plant a more than 15 years, walked out of a meeting with the supervisors and returned with a pistol, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation spokeswoman Susan Niland said. Swafford then shot supervisors Sandra Cooley and James Zotter before apparently turning the gun on himself in a restroom, she said.

“There are no appearances at this point that this was anything that was planned,” Niland said. “He did have a meeting with his supervisors, and it was during that meeting that he apparently experienced some agitation.”

Under a state law enacted in 2013, workers with carry permits are allowed to store firearms in vehicles parked at work regardless of their employers’ wishes. Thomas & Betts manager Pat Joyce said the company has an employee policy concerning firearms, but he declined to elaborate. Continue reading

State Health Dept: Five accidental TN gun deaths; not 105

News release from state Department of Health
NASHVILLE – The Tennessee Department of Health confirmed today that a data error resulted in inaccurate accidental gunshot death numbers for 2014 being reported.

After manually reviewing death certificates, TDH reports five people died from accidental gunshot wounds in the state in 2014. In an additional eight cases, the manner of death was left blank or marked as pending on the death certificate but no follow-up death certificate was sent to the department; however, a review of the autopsies for those cases indicated none of those eight were accidental deaths.

  Incorrect data provided earlier (previous post HERE) indicated the number of accidental gunshot deaths had dramatically escalated from 19 in 2013 to 105 in 2014.

(Note: The Safe Tennessee Project says it has counted 14 accidental gun deaths in 2015. Statement is below the Health Department release.)
Continue reading

TN led nation in 2014 accidental gun deaths (Update: No, it did not)

(Update/Correction: The state Department of Health says these numbers are very wrong because of a data error; there were just five 2014 gun deaths by the department’s count. See post HERE. Leaving the original post here for the record.)

The state Department By a wide margin, Tennessee led the nation in fatal unintentional shootings in 2014, according to the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control.

Further from WPLN:

The CDC counted 105 deaths from accidental gunshots in 2014. The year before that, there were 19 such deaths in the state, when Tennessee had ranked ninth.

“The rise was so dramatic that at first we didn’t believe it,” said Jonathan Metzl, research director with the Safe Tennessee Project and director of the Center for Medicine, Health and Society at Vanderbilt University.

The Safe Tennessee Project was first to report the data, noting that it first asked state and federal officials to check the numbers for accuracy. (Note: News release HERE.)

…The group’s initial analysis found injuries were most common when gun owners failed to clear the chamber before cleaning firearms or when loaded guns were dropped. The increase in deaths was reflected across all age ranges, including children who grabbed loaded weapons.

Metzl said he like to prevent such killings, but says a congressional ban on gun violence research is a hindrance.

“There are studies that we could be doing,” he said. “Would trigger locks help? Would gun safes help? Would smart guns that only fire when the user is handling the gun — would that help?”

He says such insights could reduce accidental shootings without fully entering the fray on gun control.

“It’s well past time to really look at this question,” he said. “I’m just saying that gun death and gun injury happen within predictable patterns.”

NRA backs 18 state House Republicans in primary elections

The National Rifle Association’s Political Victory Fund has endorsed 18 incumbent House Republicans in their re-election campaigns.

They are Reps. John Holsclaw of Elizabethton in District 4, Gary Hicks of Rogersville in District 9, Jeremy Faison of Cosby in District 11,

Martin Daniel of Knoxville in District 18, Mike Carter in District 29, Ron Travis in District 31,

Jerry Sexton of Bean Station in District 35, Kelly Keisling of Byrdstown in District 38, Courtney Rogers in District 45,

Judd Matheny of Tullahoma in District 47, Mike Sparks of Smyrna in District 49, Charles Sargent of Franklin in District 61,

Jimmy Eldridge of Jackson in District 73, Jay Reedy of Erin in District 74, Tim Wirgau of Buchanan in District 75,

Curtis Halford of Dyer in District 79, Curry Todd of Collierville in District 95, Steve McManus of Cordova in District 96.

The full list is https://www.nrapvf.org/grades/tennessee/.

Note: Perhaps the most notable non-endorsement of a Republican incumbent is in District 65, where embattled Rep. Jeremy Durham has an ‘A’ rating from NRA. His chief primary opponent, Sam Whitson, also got an A, though it’s noted that is based only on answers to a questionnaire. For comparison, Hicks — who is an incumbent by appointment rather than by election — was endorsed when he had an ‘A’ rating and his primary opponent, Cynthia Bundren Jackson of Rogersville, had the same grade based on the questionnaire. Ditto for Sargent in District 61 and Halford in 79.

And here’s an NRA listing of pro-gun bills passed by the Tennessee legislature this year.

UPDATE/Another note: The Tennessee Firearms Association is not endorsing the NRA endorsements. Here’s the press release:

Email from Tennessee Firearms Association
NASHVILLE, TN: Tennessee Firearms Association expressed the organization’s caution to Tennessee voters about the ratings and endorsements coming out of some State and National policy and advocacy groups such as the National Rifle Association. With less than four weeks until the August 4 primary, candidates, primarily incumbents, and early voting starting next week, the ratings and endorsements raise some concerns when contrasted with the actions and voting records of some of the “endorsed” and highly rated incumbents particularly when the primary purpose of these ratings are an attempt to influence voter decisions.

“Having been involved in Second Amendment advocacy in Tennessee for over 20 years, TFA has seldom “endorsed” a candidate,” said John Harris, Executive Director of the Tennessee Firearms Association. “We put our money where our mission is. We support both incumbents and opponents based upon their efforts to carry and co-sponsor legislation, support legislation, and champion the 2nd Amendment. TFA also carefuly scrutinizes the actions of incumbents and opposes incumbents. like Sen. Doug Overbey, Rep. Jon Lundberg, and Rep. Charles Sargent, who have proven by their actions that they do not truly support the rights of Tennesseans.”

The TFA’s concern is that in this election cycle some ratings and endorsements do not appear to reflect the true history of certain individual incumbents on the Second Amendment issues. These concerns seem to relate primarily to a limited number of incumbents who typically serve in leadership positions within the current GOP caucus.

For example, Sen. Doug Overbey is well known to have voted against many bills in Senate Judiciary that are advanced by real gun rights advocates. For example, this year he voted against Sen. Mark Green’s constitutional carry bill (Senate Bill 1483) helping to kill it in Senate Judiciary when the NRA’s lobbyist was in the room. He also voted “no” on a bill to allow handgun permit holders to carry in public parks (HB995, SB1496) in 2016. Yet, the NRA gave Sen. Overbey an “A-“ rating which it defines as somewhere between “solidly pro gun” and “generally pro gun.” In addition, it gave Sen. Overbey its endorsement in that specific race.

Similarly, in another Senate race, the NRA have given former House member Jon Lundberg an “A” rating – again indicating that he is “solidly pro gun”. The truth is that Jon Lundberg has a documented history of voting against 2nd Amendment legislation in a subcommittee that he serves on such as bills to enact Constitutional carry and to enact permitless open carry. For example, in 2016 he either voted voice voted no or he changed his “no” vote to a “present not voting” on bills such as HB0481 regarding storing legally owned firearms in parked cars, HB0684 regarding passage of permitless open carry (which approximately 30 states already have), and also HB0535 which was a bill to enact Constitutional Carry in Tennessee which approximately 12 states have already adopted.

Then, consider a House incumbent, Rep. Charles Sargent. Sargent’s antics in helping to kill and derail gun bills over the years by his chairmanship over the House Finance Committee is no secret to anyone who pays attention to the Second Amendment legislation in Tennessee. Although the NRA downgraded him to a B+ classification in 2014 and rated his challenger, Steve Gawrys with an A, the NRA has given Sargent not only an “A” rating in 2016 but it has given him the NRA’s endorsement as well and it has not rated his challenger Steve Gawrys at all.

Obviously, Tennessee Firearms Association disagrees strongly with these endorsements based simply on the observable facts. But then again, the NRA endorsed Democrat Harry Reid in the past who similarly is well known as an enemy of 2nd Amendment advocates. Yet, some sources report that the NRA’s endorsement of Reid prior to 2010 had more to do with his ability to provide a reported $61 million in funding for a gun range that the NRA wanted in Neveda than it had to do with his historical support for legislation to advance the 2nd Amendment.

The actual histories of these state incumbents and the facts concerning the Harry Reid endorsement raise legitimate questions about the basis for at least these ratings and endorsement and could easily diminish the reliability of other ratings even for candidates who have actually earned and deserved good ratings. Further, one need only pay passing attention to the endorsements and ratings to realize that the endorsements rarely given to opponents of incumbents even if the challenger has a clear history of being stronger on an issue.

TFA has not made its support decisions based upon incumbency. Again, TFA Executive Director John Harris: “Our mission at TFA is to move 2nd Amendment legislation without regard for incumbents, the money that they could direct to TFA, or the requests of challengers. We’re not afraid to support challengers who are running against incumbents who clealry do not support our mission or who use their offices to derail bills that advance the citizens’ right to ‘keep and bear arms’. Similarly, TFA is not hesitant about supporting incumbents who are strong even if they are in the minority party or principled incumbents who are labeled by the party’s leadership as not being ‘team players’ suggesting that leadership values mindless minions over principled public stewards.”

Harris continued, “Some advocacy groups exhibit little courage at times by taking what may be the easy path in order to avoid the wrath of leadership or an incumbent. Apparently for some, just because an incumbent has cast a vote in their favor from time to time is enough reason to ‘endorse’ that candidate, even when the actual facts show that the incumbent more frequently is a problem than a hero on your issue. The fact is, the committee process in the Tennessee Legislature is designed to and works to shield some incumbents from being exposed on their real views by letting them avoid having to make votes on the public record.” In that type of environment, endorsements based only on a few choreographed public votes or bill sponsorships can easily mislead voters to believe that an incumbent is good on an issue when sometimes they are the primary source of the problem.

“We have made it a habit to get in the fight with candidates who support our mission. We do not put our finger into the wind. At TFA, we put our finger on the support ‘trigger’. We believe if you’re afraid to pull the trigger, you’ll never hit the target. We also believe that principled constitutional leadership is more important than blind party loyalty.”

NRA endorses state Sens. Overbey, Tracy, Green and Gresham in GOP primaries

The National Rifle Association’s PAC has endorsed four incumbent Republican state senators who have contested August primaries — Doug Overbey of Maryville in District 2, Jim Tracy of Shelbyille in District 14, Mark Green of Clarksville in District 22 and Delores Gresham of Somerville in District 26.

The state Senate endorsement list is HERE.

Notes: The NRA Political Victory Fund makes no endorsement in the District 4 open seat (now held by retiring Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey), though giving the two leading GOP candidates — state Rep. Jon Lundberg and former Rep. Tony Shipley — ‘A’ ratings. Perhaps curiously, there’s no endorsement in District 16, though incumbent Sen. Janice Bowling has an ‘A-‘ rating and her primary opponent, Michael Wilcher, gets only a question mark beside his name. Also, there’s no endorsement of incumbent Republican Sen. Steve Dickerson in District 20; he’s given a ‘B+’ and his primary opponent, Ron McDow, has an ‘A,’ though its noted that is assigned on the basis of his response to an NRA questionnaire.

And here’s an NRA listing of pro-gun bills passed by the Tennessee legislature this year.

UPDATE/Another note: The Tennessee Firearms Association is not endorsing the NRA endorsements. Here’s the press release:

Email from Tennessee Firearms Association
NASHVILLE, TN: Tennessee Firearms Association expressed the organization’s caution to Tennessee voters about the ratings and endorsements coming out of some State and National policy and advocacy groups such as the National Rifle Association. With less than four weeks until the August 4 primary, candidates, primarily incumbents, and early voting starting next week, the ratings and endorsements raise some concerns when contrasted with the actions and voting records of some of the “endorsed” and highly rated incumbents particularly when the primary purpose of these ratings are an attempt to influence voter decisions.

“Having been involved in Second Amendment advocacy in Tennessee for over 20 years, TFA has seldom “endorsed” a candidate,” said John Harris, Executive Director of the Tennessee Firearms Association. “We put our money where our mission is. We support both incumbents and opponents based upon their efforts to carry and co-sponsor legislation, support legislation, and champion the 2nd Amendment. TFA also carefuly scrutinizes the actions of incumbents and opposes incumbents. like Sen. Doug Overbey, Rep. Jon Lundberg, and Rep. Charles Sargent, who have proven by their actions that they do not truly support the rights of Tennesseans.”

The TFA’s concern is that in this election cycle some ratings and endorsements do not appear to reflect the true history of certain individual incumbents on the Second Amendment issues. These concerns seem to relate primarily to a limited number of incumbents who typically serve in leadership positions within the current GOP caucus.

For example, Sen. Doug Overbey is well known to have voted against many bills in Senate Judiciary that are advanced by real gun rights advocates. For example, this year he voted against Sen. Mark Green’s constitutional carry bill (Senate Bill 1483) helping to kill it in Senate Judiciary when the NRA’s lobbyist was in the room. He also voted “no” on a bill to allow handgun permit holders to carry in public parks (HB995, SB1496) in 2016. Yet, the NRA gave Sen. Overbey an “A-“ rating which it defines as somewhere between “solidly pro gun” and “generally pro gun.” In addition, it gave Sen. Overbey its endorsement in that specific race.

Similarly, in another Senate race, the NRA have given former House member Jon Lundberg an “A” rating – again indicating that he is “solidly pro gun”. The truth is that Jon Lundberg has a documented history of voting against 2nd Amendment legislation in a subcommittee that he serves on such as bills to enact Constitutional carry and to enact permitless open carry. For example, in 2016 he either voted voice voted no or he changed his “no” vote to a “present not voting” on bills such as HB0481 regarding storing legally owned firearms in parked cars, HB0684 regarding passage of permitless open carry (which approximately 30 states already have), and also HB0535 which was a bill to enact Constitutional Carry in Tennessee which approximately 12 states have already adopted.

Then, consider a House incumbent, Rep. Charles Sargent. Sargent’s antics in helping to kill and derail gun bills over the years by his chairmanship over the House Finance Committee is no secret to anyone who pays attention to the Second Amendment legislation in Tennessee. Although the NRA downgraded him to a B+ classification in 2014 and rated his challenger, Steve Gawrys with an A, the NRA has given Sargent not only an “A” rating in 2016 but it has given him the NRA’s endorsement as well and it has not rated his challenger Steve Gawrys at all.

Obviously, Tennessee Firearms Association disagrees strongly with these endorsements based simply on the observable facts. But then again, the NRA endorsed Democrat Harry Reid in the past who similarly is well known as an enemy of 2nd Amendment advocates. Yet, some sources report that the NRA’s endorsement of Reid prior to 2010 had more to do with his ability to provide a reported $61 million in funding for a gun range that the NRA wanted in Neveda than it had to do with his historical support for legislation to advance the 2nd Amendment.

The actual histories of these state incumbents and the facts concerning the Harry Reid endorsement raise legitimate questions about the basis for at least these ratings and endorsement and could easily diminish the reliability of other ratings even for candidates who have actually earned and deserved good ratings. Further, one need only pay passing attention to the endorsements and ratings to realize that the endorsements rarely given to opponents of incumbents even if the challenger has a clear history of being stronger on an issue.

TFA has not made its support decisions based upon incumbency. Again, TFA Executive Director John Harris: “Our mission at TFA is to move 2nd Amendment legislation without regard for incumbents, the money that they could direct to TFA, or the requests of challengers. We’re not afraid to support challengers who are running against incumbents who clealry do not support our mission or who use their offices to derail bills that advance the citizens’ right to ‘keep and bear arms’. Similarly, TFA is not hesitant about supporting incumbents who are strong even if they are in the minority party or principled incumbents who are labeled by the party’s leadership as not being ‘team players’ suggesting that leadership values mindless minions over principled public stewards.”

Harris continued, “Some advocacy groups exhibit little courage at times by taking what may be the easy path in order to avoid the wrath of leadership or an incumbent. Apparently for some, just because an incumbent has cast a vote in their favor from time to time is enough reason to ‘endorse’ that candidate, even when the actual facts show that the incumbent more frequently is a problem than a hero on your issue. The fact is, the committee process in the Tennessee Legislature is designed to and works to shield some incumbents from being exposed on their real views by letting them avoid having to make votes on the public record.” In that type of environment, endorsements based only on a few choreographed public votes or bill sponsorships can easily mislead voters to believe that an incumbent is good on an issue when sometimes they are the primary source of the problem.

“We have made it a habit to get in the fight with candidates who support our mission. We do not put our finger into the wind. At TFA, we put our finger on the support ‘trigger’. We believe if you’re afraid to pull the trigger, you’ll never hit the target. We also believe that principled constitutional leadership is more important than blind party loyalty.”

Judge dismisses gun show operator’s lawsuit against Nashville fairgrounds

A Nashville judge Tuesday threw out a lawsuit brought by a gun show operator who has held events at Nashville Fairgrounds and fears they will be stopped under a new policy, according to The Tennessean.

Davidson County Chancellor Carol McCoy, in a ruling from the bench, granted Metro’s motion to dismiss the case and denied the motion of plaintiff David Goodman of Bill Goodman’s Gun and Knife Shows for injunctive relief.

…McCoy said that Goodman does not face immediate and irreparable harm to warrant an injunction and also lacked standing to bring the lawsuit because she said his rights had not been violated. Goodman, whose company has rented space at the fairgrounds for gun shows for more than 30 years, filed the lawsuit against Metro in April with a co-plaintiff, the Tennessee Firearms Association.

The ruling, which came after more than two hours of oral arguments, marked the first time a judge has weighed in on the Metro fair board’s controversial vote in December to halt future gun shows beginning next year unless new rules are in place for the events. McCoy found that the board was within its authority.

“I cannot find that there is a right to contract with Metro,” McCoy said. “You can try to contract with Metro. You can be the best business person in the world, but there is no right that the courts can enforce to require Metro to contract with that person or that entity.

“It may be that they decide to lease to Mr. Goodman. They may decide to lease to Mr. Goodman’s competitor. They may decide to lease to an entity that is not fully unknown at this point in time. But it’s not for the court to interfere with dictating to the fairgrounds and its board how those premises should be used through injunctive relief.”

Goodman’s attorney, Timothy Rudd, would not say whether he plans to appeal the decision.

WIGS, guns-on-campus among laws taking effect July 1 (with list)

By Eric Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Wine will be available in Tennessee supermarkets, professors will be allowed to carry guns on public college campuses, and drivers will be subject to stricter penalties for texting on the road, under new laws taking effect Friday.

Many bills passed by lawmakers this year took effect upon being signed by Republican Gov. Bill Haslam, but others were linked to the start of the new budget year, which starts July 1.

The campus-carry bill was the result of heavy negotiations between gun-rights advocates and higher-education officials who opposed allowing more weapons on campus.

The law keeps gun bans in place for stadiums or gymnasiums during school-sponsored events; meetings where disciplinary or tenure issues are being discussed; hospitals or offices where medical or mental health services are provided; and any location prohibited by another law, such as at day care centers or elementary schools located on campus.

Those changes made the bill more palatable to Republican Gov. Bill Haslam.

“I was not in favor of that law to begin with, because whoever controls any piece of property should be able to decide what happens on that piece of property,” the governor told reporters this week. Continue reading

Kelsey wins straw poll at Holt’s gun giveaway ‘Hogfest;’ Democrats bash ‘media circus’ event

News release from Rep. Andy Holt
DRESDEN, Tenn., June 28, 2016– Last Saturday, Tennessee State Rep. Andy Holt (R-Dresden) hosted the first Holt’s HogFest & Turkey Shoot at his family farm in the rural town of Dresden in West Tennessee. The event garnered world-wide attention as Holt ‘stuck to his guns’ in his plan to give away two AR15s and drew attendees from all across the State of Tennessee.

“It was an incredible evening. At one point, we had more than 50 people waiting in line to register. We had folks coming from as far east as Johnson City and all the way west from Memphis,” said Holt. “We raised more than $16,000, not a single person was injured, and there were probably more firearms there than there were people. It was a fantastic celebration of the 2nd Amendment, God, and country.”

The event was open carry and was attended by most of the top-tier candidates running for U.S. Congress in Tennessee’s 8th District which includes Holt’s State House district. Congressional candidates Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell and Dr. George Flinn were scheduled to attend, but did not show, although Flinn did send a representative from his campaign to speak on his behalf.
Continue reading

Cohen denounces pro-gun ‘nuts’ as windup to House sit-in

As House Democrats suspended their sit-in over gun violence Thursday, U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen called the 25-hour protest “a great day for America” and denounced “crazy, looney tweets” from pro-gun “nuts,” reports Michael Collins.

“What a great opportunity for Democrats to come together and show unity on an issue of such importance as saving lives,” the Memphis Democrat said in a fiery speech from the House floor, about 30 minutes before the sit-in ended. Democrats have vowed to restart it when the House returns from its July 4 recess.

Cohen said the gun-control measures Democrats are seeking — to expand background checks and prevent suspected terrorists from buying guns — are “low-hanging fruit,” and Congress should be working to ban assault rifles and high-capacity magazines.

Yet, he said, a lot of gun owners have taken to social media to argue they need assault weapons “to defend themselves from their country.”

“They’re nuts,” he said.

U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, a Nashville Democrat who also participated in the sit-in, said House members should be allowed to vote on issues of concern to the public.

“Making sure that terrorists can’t easily get their hands on guns is a no-brainer, and we should vote on it,” Cooper said. “We should not shirk our responsibilities to the country on any of the important issues of the day.”

…Cooper said that while the “no-fly” list is not perfect, “it has been good enough to keep airplanes from exploding over the U.S. since 9/11.”

“I am exploring ways to get a better list, and I am open to all good ideas,” he said. “But the legitimate problems with today’s no-fly list are solvable, such as by adding due process protections. The key point is that Congress should be working on these issues, not ducking them. We should be solving the problem of identifying terrorists, not giving up.”

Black, Carr go for 6th District gun vote with AR-15 giveaway, ad buy

Incumbent U.S. Rep. Diane Black and her chief opponent in the 6th Congressional District Republican primary, Joe Carr, offer competing approaches to solicitation of votes from firearms fans, as illustrated in the following two campaign press releases. Continue reading