News release from Department of Safety:
NASHVILLE — The Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security today announced that the average wait time at state driver services centers has decreased so far this year compared to 2012.
The average wait time from January 1 – June 30 at centers statewide, excluding reinstatement centers, fell from 34 minutes in 2012 to 31.5 minutes in 2013. There was a slight increase, however, from the first quarter of 2013 in which the average wait time was 30.5 minutes compared to the second quarter when the wait time averaged 32 minutes.
The decrease in wait time for the first six months happened while the number of statewide transactions at driver services centers increased. Driver license examiners served 621,405 customers from January 1 – June 30, 2012. In the first six months of 2013, the number of customers grew to 626,211.
“We are monitoring these figures very closely. Reducing the wait time at our driver service centers is a priority so when we experience an increase we act immediately to identify the reasons,” Commissioner Bill Gibbons said.
Tennessee employers, public and private, are declaring that the state’s “guns in parking lots” law, which took effect July 1, does nothing to change policies prohibiting their employees from bringing weapons onto their property, even if they have a handgun carry permit.
That has prompted Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, a leading supporter of the new law, to declare that he will “probably” support an anticipated push to change the law next year to clarify that permit holders cannot be fired solely for having their gun in a locked car in their employers’ parking lots.
That runs counter to the declared wish of Gov. Bill Haslam that gun laws in Tennessee remain at the “status quo” in the 2014 session with no new gunfights.
“I hate that the attorney general has muddied the waters on this,” said Ramsey, who said he has been receiving complaints from employees of Eastman Chemical Co. this summer who were upset that the company’s prohibition on guns in parking lots is unchanged.
He referred a formal legal opinion from Attorney General Bob Cooper in May that says the new law — while forbidding any criminal prosecution of permit holders complying with its provisions — will have no impact on Tennessee law that otherwise generally allows a company to fire an employee “at will,” for any reason or no reason.
(Note: This updates, expands and replaces earlier post)
State attorney general Bob Cooper says a new state law protecting handgun permit holders from criminal prosecution for keeping their guns in locked cars still leaves them vulnerable to being fired by employers who prohibit weapons on their premises.
Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey said the opinion, made public Wednesday, “ignores the clear legislative intent of the law.” (Note: full text of opinion HERE)
John Harris, president of the Tennessee Firearms Association, said Cooper’s analysis is correct and echoes points that Second Amendment advocates raised during legislative debate, only to be ignored by Republican legislative leadership.
The attorney general’s opinion, requested by Rep. Judd Matheny, R-Tullahoma, also addresses four legal questions raised about the so-called “guns in parking lots” law enacted earlier this year.
Two of them were the subject of considerable debate, including amendments offered on the House floor by Rep. John Mark Windle, D-Livingston, who had Harris’ help in drafting them.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Tennessee Court of Appeals has ruled against a Brentwood man who claimed state law regulating the carrying of firearms was unconstitutional.
Leonard Embody filed a lawsuit in 2010 after state officials took away his carry permit, finding a “material likelihood of risk of harm to the public.”
The revocation came after Embody was detained by Belle Meade police in 2010 while walking with a .44-caliber black powder revolver in his hand. He was detained in 2009 while walking in Radnor Lake State Park with an AK-47-style pistol. He also has been stopped in at least three similar incidents, although he was never charged with a crime.
Embody, who represented himself, claimed in court that the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution gives him a right to carry firearms.
According to the court, “The crux of Embody’s argument is that, as a law-abiding citizen, the legislature may not constitutionally bar him from carrying loaded firearms in public.”
From Richard Locker:
The state Senate approved a bill Wednesday closing public and media access to Tennessee’s handgun-carry permit records in most cases, making confidential the identities of nearly 400,000 Tennesseans licensed to go armed in public.
The House approved it 84-10 last month and the Senate followed suit on a 27-2 vote. Senators added an amendment providing limited circumstances when the public may ask if a specific individual who has some brush with the law has a permit, which sends the bill back to the House for concurrence with the amendment only. Approval there is expected, possibly Thursday. It then goes to the governor, who is expected to allow it to become law.
“This is a bill that protects the handgun permit carriers. It also protects the non-handgun permit carriers,” the sponsor, Sen. Ferrell Haile, R-Gallatin, told his colleagues. “What we’re doing here is prevent the publication of carry permit holders in a news media or on the Internet where that their name and address is put on a map, and that allows those that would come in and steal guns to know where those guns are.
“Also in addition to that, those that are not permit carriers are also identified through this in that the thieves would know perhaps that home has no protection. So this is for the public welfare,” Haile said.
The Senate amendment allows access by law enforcement as needed and to child-support agencies for child-support enforcement.
It allows “any person or entity” to ask the state Department of Safety to search the permit database to determine if a specific named person has a permit, but only if the requester presents a court judgment of a conviction, a criminal history report, order of protection or other official government document or record that indicates the named person is not eligible to possess a gun-carry permit.
In earlier committee discussions of the bill, legislative lawyers said that could include an arrest warrant charging a person with a felony but a misdemeanor.
The Commercial Appeal maintains on its website a searchable database of names and hometowns of Tennesseeans holding handgun-carry permits, but not street addresses. No Tennessee media outlet has published or posted maps displaying addresses of permit holders.
And referencing Haile’s argument that the bill protects identification of people without carry permits, no permit is required in Tennessee to keep guns at home.
— Note: This updates and replaces earlier post, part of the CA’s ‘State Capitol Wednesday’ HERE.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A proposal to seal Tennessee’s handgun carry permit records from public scrutiny is advancing in the Legislature.
The measure sponsored by Republican Sen. Ferrell Haile of Gallatin unanimously passed the Senate Judiciary Committee 8-0 on Tuesday and is headed for a vote by the full Senate. The companion bill was approved 84-10 in the House last month.
Both versions of the bill would allow for the media and Safety Department to confirm whether someone who had run afoul of the law was a permit holder, but only by providing a legal document or other record “that indicates the named person is not eligible to possess a handgun carry permit.”
The legislation doesn’t create an exception for political operatives and lobbying groups to obtain the entire set of names and addresses.
By Erik Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — An effort to seal Tennessee’s handgun carry permit records from public scrutiny would create an exception for political operatives and lobbying groups to still obtain the entire set of names and addresses.
Republican Sen. Ferrell Haile of Gallatin told the Senate Judiciary Committee this week that his bill is an effort to block the publication of handgun carry permit records on newspaper websites.
“We’re not trying to keep it where it’s not usable, but we want to keep it from being published,” he said.
Political operatives and advocacy groups want to be able to obtain the names and addresses of all 398,000 handgun carry permit holders so they can target them for fundraising and campaign mailings.
Sen. Mike Bell, R-Riceville, said he ran into similar issues when he tried to pass similar legislation years ago.
“My biggest resistance came from members of my own party for this provision, who wanted to continue using it for political purposes,” he said.
The state House overwhelmingly approved a bill Monday night that makes secret virtually all information about Tennessee handgun-carry permit holders except non-identifying statical reports, reports Richard Locker. If the Senate also approves the bill, individuals and media organizations would be unable to identify any of the 370,000 Tennessee residents with the state-issued licenses to carry guns in public. In the previous four years, lawmakers have been expanding the number of public places where permit holders may legally carry guns, including public parks and bars and restaurants serving alcohol.
A bill that passed last month allows permit holders to keep their guns in their cars on virtually any public and private parking lot — including at schools and college campuses — despite the property owner’s objections. One of the arguments advanced by the legislators who sponsored the guns-in-parking lots bill was that employers and others could still determine if their employees have permits to go armed because the permit database is public record. That would no longer be the case with the bill approved by the House Monday.
The bill, House Bill 9, declares that all information and records relating to handgun-carry permits “are confidential, not open or available for public inspection and shall not be released in any manner” except to law enforcement agencies specifically investigating an individual with a permit. It also makes confidential any information regarding the suspension or revocation of a permit.
Before approving the bill 84-10, the House added an amendment recommended by a committee that would allow any person or entity to ask the state Department of Safety to search its permit-holder database to determine if a specific person has a permit as of that date, but only if the requester presents an official government document indicating the named person is not eligible to possess a permit. That would include a court judgment of the individual’s conviction of a crime that makes the person ineligible, a criminal history report, or an order of protection.
Such limitations would prohibit the state from publicly confirming an individual charged with a violent crime, including murder, is licensed to go armed. In fact, the push by gun advocates for closing public access to permit holders’ identities began in early 2009 when real estate investor Harry Ray Coleman was publicly identified as a permit holder when he shot Robert Schwerin Jr. to death during an argument outside a Cordova restaurant.
By Eric Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — It was after 2 a.m. when David Aller was thrown out of the Klub Cirok Nightclub & VIP Lounge for fighting. That’s when police say the 26-year-old man retrieved a loaded handgun from his car in the club parking lot and returned to threaten patrons.
Aller, who was charged with aggravated assault for the Nov. 11 incident, was also a handgun carry permit holder.
Ever since lawmakers opened serious consideration of a bill to allow permit holders to store firearms in their vehicles — no matter where they are parked — backers have maintained security won’t be threatened because gun permit holders are law-abiding citizens and unlikely to commit crimes.
Public records reviewed by AP show, however, that some incidents, like the one at Klub Cirok, have the potential to become violent when guns are drawn by permit holders in parking lots. And club promoter Joe Savage said the bill is misguided.
“If it’s at the Waffle House it’s one thing, but if it’s Cirok’s it’s another,” Savage told AP in the club’s parking lot. “You can’t just say across the board it’s going to be all right — because it’s not all right.
“If this was a church and they were all nuns and priests, then fine,” he said. “But that’s not what this is.”
By Erik Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A National Rifle Association-backed effort to block public access to handgun carry permits goes too far for Republican Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey, one of the top gun rights advocates in the Tennessee General Assembly.
Ramsey told The Associated Press that the ability to scrutinize the identities of people with handgun carry permits strengthens arguments that gun enthusiasts are worthy of carrying loaded firearms in public.
“Having the handgun carry records open actually helps the cause of the Second Amendment,” he said in an interview Thursday. “Because people can go look at those and realize that they truly are law-abiding citizens.”
Ramsey added, “I encourage people like the press to look through these to figure out whether there’s something we’re missing. When you don’t shine light on something, that’s when problems are caused.”
Ramsey’s position conflicts with NRA, which has long called for sealing the records so the public and news media cannot see who has the state-issued permits.
“Members of the media have no business possessing personal information of Tennesseans with handgun carry permits,” NRA spokeswoman Stephanie Samford said in an email.