The Tennessean reports that the Tennessee Firearms Association plans to give away a Bushmaster AR-15 on Monday, subject to a background check for the winner of a drawing that Executive Director John Harris says has already pulled in more than 10,000 contestants. The promotion started on April 8, more than a week before the U.S. Senate voted down a proposal for expanded background checks that was promoted by the president and supported by 90 percent of Americans, according to most polls.
While Harris said the promotion had been planned for a while, the association’s website (main website HERE, gun giveaway page HERE) says the goal is “to advance the effort to resist Barack Obama, the federal government and even a few in Tennessee state government who are determined to destroy your 2nd Amendment rights!!” Supporters don’t have to give money to the association to enter the drawing, but they’re encouraged to “chip in a few dollars to help support the promotion and TFA!!!”
Linda McFadyen-Ketchum, a Nashville gun control activist, said the timing of the promotion is disturbing…. “just four months after Newtown and in the middle of our country’s debate about gun safety is in-your-face insensitive… We have to balance the right to bear arms with the right to be safe. A gun giveaway right now inflames emotions and does not help us achieve that goal.”
…If thwarting federal legislation is the point of the giveaway, (former state Rep. Debra) Maggart said it makes little sense, because Tennessee’s mostly Republican congressional delegation reliably supports the Second Amendment. So do the Republicans who make up a supermajority in the General Assembly, she said.
“This may illustrate perfectly what I’ve been saying all along: They create these issues to raise money. That just stokes the fire to frighten folks.”
Maggart gave Harris credit for “good marketing,” however, after the political backlash against the Newtown massacre led many gun owners to fear it would be tougher to buy an AR-15. The gun actually became more expensive in some places, according to national reports.
“He’s playing into the fear that’s out there that the gun lobby has helped create,” she said.
Harris, an attorney, said many of the state’s Republican politicians aren’t as reliable as Maggart thinks they are. He said Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker, Tennessee’s two GOP senators, are “not soundly, consistently pro-Second Amendment.” He called the so-called “guns-in-trunks” bill passed by the General Assembly this year “an abomination” and “a disaster” because it doesn’t explicitly protect people who keep their guns in their cars at work from losing their jobs.
By Erik Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Before a House vote to give final approval to a contentious firearms bill last week, Speaker Beth Harwell implored her Republican colleagues to ignore demands from what she deemed “fringe” groups to make major changes to the measure.
The chamber took Harwell’s advice and passed the bill guns-in-parking-lots bill without any changes. Lawmakers have also in recent weeks drawn the line at proposals to bypass the federal government by allowing the creation an independent health care network and stopped a proposal to ban the enforcement of federal firearms laws in Tennessee.
The failure of those two bills in House and Senate committees indicates a new willingness among leaders of the GOP supermajority to reel in some of the more extreme — and likely unconstitutional — measures before they reach a floor vote, where lawmakers might have a harder time voting against them for ideological reasons.
Last year Gov. Bill Haslam decried the attention being paid to what he called the “craziest” measures, although he blamed the news media and not the lawmakers for that. It was a signal, nevertheless, that Republican leaders have worried about how some of the bills reflected on Tennessee’s image.
A bill that declares Tennessee can declare federal firearms laws “null and void” within its borders and prosecute federal officers enforcing them is unconstitutional under the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution, according to another attorney general’s opinion released Monday.
The opinion on SB250 was requested by Senate Judiciary Chairman Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown. His committee voted 5-4 to postpone a vote on the bill by Sen. Mae Beavers, R-Mount Juliet, to seek Cooper’s opinion. Beavers argued that the state, through the Legislature or other officials, can nullify federal laws that exceed the federal government’s authority.
The opinion quotes a U.S. Supreme Court case: “If the legislatures of the several states may, at will, annul the judgments of the courts of the United States, and destroy the rights acquired under those judgments, the constitution itself becomes a solemn mockery . . . .No state legislator or executive or judicial officer can war against the Constitution without violating his undertaking to support it.”
— Note: Full opinion HERE. Previous post HERE.
Senate Judiciary Chairman Brian Kelsey, comparing himself at one point to Andrew Jackson in 1832, managed to delay Tuesday a vote on legislation that declares Tennessee has a right to nullify federal gun laws and charge federal agents enforcing them with committing a felony.
The committee voted 5-4 to grant Kelsey’s call to postpone a vote on the proposal (SB250) for one week while he seeks a legal opinion from state Attorney General Bob Cooper on whether it would violate the U.S. Constitution.
Sponsor Sen. Mae Beavers, R-Mount Juliet, said the U.S. Constitution authorizes states – through their legislatures – to decide the validity of federal laws.
She understands that lawyers believe the Supreme Court is the “ultimate arbitrator” of constitutionality, Beavers said, and that has allowed justics “setting themselves up as a dictator” and “generation after generation we have just accepted that.”
But that is wrong, she said, and the 10th Amendment lets states decide what laws are constitution and which can be ignored or nullified.
Beavers’ view was reenforced by June Griffin of Dayton, who heads the Tennessee Commission on the Bill of Rights. Griffin said Tennessee’s own constitution cast upon legislators – and sheriffs around the state – a duty to resist federal intrusion by supporting the bill.
Tennessee legislators this year are calling for a broad array of limitations on federal government authority within the state, a movement that the speakers of the House and Senate say reflects growing concern within the Republican supermajority.
“The number of bills (filed) indicates that this is a Legislature that firmly believes in states’ rights,” said House Speaker Beth Harwell. “The federal government is not running properly and state government is. … That is the driving force.”
But she and Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey, who ran for governor in 2010 under the theme “Give Washington the boot,” say they are still studying the pile of bills asserting states’ rights in one way or another and are not ready to declare support — or opposition — to specific proposals.
Ramsey said he has misgivings about some measures declaring that federal laws violating the Constitution are void in Tennessee. The threshold question, he said, is who decides what is unconstitutional.
“The last thing you want is some rogue sheriff out here deciding what’s unconstitutional,” he said.
Some proposals call for the Legislature to decide, notably including the Tennessee Balance of Powers Act (SB1158) proposed by Sen. Mae Beavers, R-Mount Juliet, and Rep. Judd Matheny, R-Tullahoma. It would create a joint House-Senate committee to review federal laws and executive orders and recommend to the full House and Senate those that exceed the federal government’s constitutional authority. If the full House and Senate agree, the bill declares that those laws will be null and void within the state.
While passion about gun rights contributed to the defeat of state Rep. and House Caucus Chairwoman Debra Maggart on Thursday, The Tennessean says her ouster may not dramatically change how the legislature addresses Second Amendment rights — at least not in the near future. Speaker of the House Beth Harwell, R-Nashville, said the legislature and its leaders will try to respect the rights of property and gun owners when they consider this type of legislation next spring.
“We will always do what is best for the state of Tennessee,” Harwell said. “We are always open to discussion, but our job is to uphold the Constitution and do what’s best for the state.”
…And while Harwell said all of the state Republicans who won Thursday share common conservative principles, she said the all-out effort didn’t play well with lawmakers.
“Some members have been upset about how she was treated,” she said.
…John Harris, executive director of the Tennessee Firearms Association, said the reasons his group got involved went beyond a single bill.
“It dates back to the broader issue last year when she said that she had no intent of taking Second Amendment issues to the floor in an election year,” he said.
Harris expects the law to pass eventually, whether in the next General Assembly or another one with more receptive legislators. And he sent a not-so-veiled warning to GOP leaders that they should pay attention to what happened Thursday — even if some of Tennessee’s biggest businesses don’t like it.
“We hope this legislation won’t be derailed by leadership because of financial allegiances,” he said.
In a statement, Chris Cox, who leads the NRA’s Political Victory Fund, called Rogers’ win a great victory for the Second Amendment to the Constitution, which guarantees the right to bear arms.
“The NRA will always champion Second Amendment rights in Tennessee and across the United States,” Cox said. “We look forward to working with Courtney Rogers and all of our supporters in Nashville during the next legislative session to help secure passage of the Safe Commute Act.”
John Geer, chairman of the political science department at Vanderbilt University, said… this race showed how the Republican-dominated legislature could end up taking more conservative positions than the people it represents, a finding that emerged in a poll Vanderbilt conducted in partnership with The Tennessean earlier this year.
“They’re not fearful of losing to a Democrat,” he said.
“They’re more afraid of losing to a more conservative candidate.”
John Harris, president of the Tennessee Firearms Association, has issued a new attack on House Republican Caucus Chairman Debra Maggart following a House Republican Caucus vote Monday night – behind closed doors – to oppose efforts to bring the so-called “guns in parking lots” bill to a House floor vote.
A Maggart quote on Harris: “In my experience, weak men do not like strong women. I think that’s what this is all about.”
Here’s an excerpt from the Harris email to supporters: Rep. Debra Maggart has been identified by TFA and we understand by other grassroots organizations as the symbolic figure of a Republican legislative leadership that has trampled on the 2nd Amendment rights of citizens these last two (2) years, that has made knowing misrepresentations to the citizens regarding their support and that of the caucus for the 2nd Amendment and the rights of citizens, and that demonstrated an unsettleing willingness to abuse the rules to defeat legislation on grounds other than the merits in open recorded floor votes.
Rep. Debra Maggart’s political career needs to end much as the Romans crucified criminals – not just to end her tenure but as a glaring example to other Republicans that you cannot take the grassroots groups or the rights of citizens for granted and then put your hand out to Big Business for their support all the while expecting to be re-elected. Symbolicly, it is time to display a used crucifix at the entrance to the General Assembly as a warning. Rep. Debra Maggart’s race is not a race limited now to the 45 District from which she claims power. Her race is a statewide race for constitutional conservatives to stand up from all 99 districts and proclaim we will not be taken for granted and we will not have our rights as citizens sold for a measure of silver.
Rep. Maggart has a primary challenger in the Republican Primary. The challenger is Lt. Col. Courtney Rogers . Lt. Col. Rogers is raising the funds necessary to offset the enourmous Maggart warchest that we can assume has been funded in many respects by Big Business and related interests. Lt. Col. Rogers’ campaign is asking every firearms owner and conservative in the State who has been taken for granted by Debra Maggart and her peers to contribute “$45 for the 45 District”. It is interesting that the 45 is the caliber that has been used in the handguns of patriots and our armed forces for more than a century to defend the freedoms we cherish in this country. If just 10 percent of the 340,000+ handgun permit holders could make that small effort it would practically ensure that the voices of conservatives would no longer be taken for granted by the elected Republican leadership in Tennessee.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The House on Monday approved two key pieces of Republican Gov. Bill Haslam’s anti-crime package and sent the bills for the governor’s signature.
The chamber voted 91-0 to increase penalties for violent crimes committed by groups of three or more people. A bill to enhance penalties for gun possession by people with previous felony convictions was approved on a 95-0 vote with no debate.
The companion bills were approved earlier by the Senate. Haslam included the estimated $6 million cost of the enhanced penalties in his budget proposal, but did not include funding for other parts of his crime package.
As a consequence, some of those measures have faced a bumpier road in the Legislature. They include bills seeking to create a prescription drug database and to require mandatory jail time for people receiving repeat domestic violence convictions.
The domestic violence bill has been further complicated by charges filed against Rep. David Hawk last week after his wife said he assaulted her. Hawk has denied the charges and alleged that his wife threatened him with a gun.
The governor’s plan was produced over the course of a year by representatives of 11 state agencies to reduce drug abuse and trafficking, lower violent crime and cut the rate of repeat offenders.
— Note: The bills are SB2250, Ifirearms) and SB2252 (gangs)
House Speaker Beth Harwell told reporters Thursday that Republican leadership was continuing to work with “all interested parties” on guns-in-lots legislation, a group she says does not include the consistently boisterous Tennessee Firearms Association.
More from the TNReport: Speaking at her weekly press conference, the Nashville Republican said her caucus is still searching for the fine line between two of the party’s primary concerns.
“This caucus is dedicated to gun rights, the Second Amendment,” she said. “We are also dedicated to property rights. And we’re going to merge those until we get to a point where we’re satisfied, or we will not. We’ll continue to work.”
Throughout the ongoing debate over the legislation, which would allow workers to store guns in their cars on company lots, the TFA has appeared to be a player, throwing grenades via press release and testifying before a House committee in support of the bill. But Harwell said they’re not in the loop on negotiations about the details of the bill.
“As far as I know, the association that reflects the Second Amendment rights in this state is the National Rifle Association, and we have had ongoing discussions with them,” she said.
…The executive director of the TFA, John Harris, told TNReport his association is working with other organizations, including tea party groups in the state, whom he says have made the issue a top priority. He said the TFA has been in contact with the NRA and is working with their lobbyist on the issue. But when it comes to the ongoing negotiations with legislators, Harris confirms that TFA is on the outside.
“The legislature has decided they’re not going to talk to TFA, which is the only state organization to have a presence in this issue for 15 years,” he said. “There are a significant amount of legislators talking to us off the record, because they’ve been threatened by leadership not to talk to us.”
Harris balked at the suggestion that the association’s frequently aggressive rhetoric might be the reason for legislators giving them the cold shoulder. He said they’re just “playing games.”
Both yours truly and Andy Sher have Sunday stories on the ongoing gunfight at the Legislature, which maybe could come to a head this week. Then again, maybe not. Suspicions are that the legislation is a good candidate for being postponed into oblivion and/or getting into such a confused mess that everyone can say he/she supported something, but nothing passed..
Excerpt from the News Sentinel: Caught in a lobbying crossfire between Second Amendment activists and Tennessee’s biggest businesses, state legislators are searching for a compromise on legislation to protect gun owners from “discrimination” by their employers.
Three interrelated bills are scheduled for votes in House and Senate committees in the coming week after hours of conflicting testimony from both sides and an onslaught of emails and telephone calls to legislators.