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.
By Lucas Johnson, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A measure that allows people with handgun carry permits to store firearms in their vehicles no matter where they are parked is among a number of new state laws that take effect Monday.
The gun law will go into effect despite questions about what it means for employment law in Tennessee — the measure allows workers to store guns in cars while parked in their employers’ parking lots.
The state attorney general said in a legal opinion released in May that under the law, employers would still be allowed to fire workers who violate gun bans.
Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey disagreed with the opinion, saying in a statement that the “General Assembly created a clear statutory right allowing permit holders to lawfully keep a firearm stored in their car while at work.”
“Any employer explicitly terminating a permit holder for keeping a gun locked in his car would violate the state’s clear public policy, opening himself or herself up to legal action,” the Blountville Republican said.
Other measures taking effect include a law that allows school districts to let people with police training be armed in schools, and one that would require incoming students at public higher education institutions to show proof they’ve had meningitis shots.
(Note: Full list of laws taking effect today is HERE.)
(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.
Gov. Bill Haslam said Tuesday he sees no need for any more gun legislation at the state level, but in general likes the idea advanced at the federal level of expanded background checks for firearm purchases.
“I think we’ve addressed the gun laws we need to (address) in Tennessee right now,” Haslam said in answering a question posed from the audience at the American Legion Auxiliary Volunteer Girls State.
He cited as a capstone of state gun laws legislation signed into law earlier this year that allows handgun permit holders to keep their weapons in a locked vehicle almost anywhere, including the parking lot of employers who prohibit guns on their property.
But at the federal level, the governor said he was open to at least one change.
“I think there has to be a better way to do background checks. … It makes sense and I think we can do it without infringing on people’s Second Amendment rights,” he said.
Asked to elaborate later by reporters, Haslam said sees no need for either expansion or restriction of gun rights in Tennessee.
“If it was my preference, there wouldn’t be any gun legislation brought up in the next (legislative) session,” he said. “Now, obviously, we’ve got 132 people (state legislators) who get to decide what they do. But for me, I think the status quo would be OK.”
He declined to give any specifics on background checks, including whether he would support ending what gun control advocates characterize as a the “gun show loophole” in current federal law. Though background checks are required for purchases at retail gun stores, they are not mandatory for sales at gun show events.
“I don’t have anything in mind,” he said. “I don’t know enough to be specific about that. … I think there are people into that who are further down that road than I am.”
And this from Andy Sher’s report on the governor’s comments: Tennessee Firearms Association Executive Director John Harris on Tuesday called the new law (“guns in parking lots”) an “abomination” that needs to put right to protect gun owners as they commute to and from work.
Meanwhile, Harris said the group has more proposals on its agenda.
“Our to-do list has probably got 30 or so areas on it at this point,” he said. “We’ve always got a list of what do we want to change.”
One issue the group is interested in is what it calls “constitutional carry” law.
It says that as a citizen, Tennesseans don’t need to obtain a state-issued handgun-carry permit. Five states have such statutes while Kentucky has a modified version, Harris said.
Harris noted that during his 2010 campaign for governor, “Haslam said he didn’t mind and would sign” such legislation into law. Then, Harris said, Haslam “immediately flip flopped on that and he’s never flipped back into it.”
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Gov. Bill Haslam has signed a bill that would allow people with handgun carry permits to store firearms in their vehicles no matter where they are parked.
The signing comes despite questions about whether the legislation affects employment law in Tennessee because the measure would allow workers to store guns in their cars while parked in their employers’ parking lots.
Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey of Blountville and four fellow Republican co-sponsors on Thursday submitted a letter for inclusion into the Senate Journal elaborating on their legislative intent for the measure.
While the letter states the bill does not seek to alter the state’s “employment-at-will doctrine,” it notes that businesses could run into trouble if they seek to enforce a gun ban on their property.
“Employers who terminate employees just for exercising this right may violate the state’s clear public policy that handgun carry permit holders are allowed to transport and store firearms or ammunition,” the sponsors wrote.
That analysis appears to conflict with statements by the main House sponsor who stressed in committee and during floor debate that the bill wouldn’t affect employers’ abilities to fire anyone.
The legislation (HB142) was approved 28-5 in the Senate and 72-22 in the House last month. It’s scheduled to take effect July 1.
In the middle of the debate over the hotly contested guns-in-trunks legislation, Rep. Joe Carr was heading to a Franklin fundraiser to boost his congressional campaign, reports The City Paper. Shortly before the final vote on the bill, Carr was excused for the day and left for a gathering at a country club of what he calls “close personal friends” supporting his bid for Congress.
“I made a calculated decision based on the votes that were necessary for passage,” Carr told The City Paper about his decision to leave before casting his vote on the controversial bill. “I don’t think it was an unreasonable choice that I made. Not unreasonable at all.”
He missed more than half the votes — including the final vote — on the guns-in-trunks bill that makes it legal for handgun carry permit holders to store their gun in their locked car in parking lots, including those of their employer.
…”I did not cast a vote on the final bill because I was not present, because I had left the chamber as a result of this prior commitment,” he said, adding he was confident the legislation would pass without him. “I think I made the right decision.”
Carr would not confirm the event for him on Thursday, Feb. 28, at Old Natchez Country Club in Franklin that morning was a fundraiser or how much money he raised. He said the gathering was “organized by some people who are asking me to take part in a 4th Congressional race.”
Meanwhile, from the Daily News Journal:
State Rep. Joe Carr has filed a statement of organization with the Federal Election Commission to run for Congress in the 4th District, but he is still hedging on official candidacy. Carr, a Lascassas Republican, filed a Joe Carr for Congress statement Feb. 19, listing Troy Brewer of Nashville as campaign controller and Murfreesboro dentist Nate Schott as treasurer.
In December, Carr formed an exploratory committee and began raising funds. The committee raised more than $5,000 toward a race, Carr said Friday, and he was required to file with the FEC.
“This means we are taking a serious look at it because the exploratory phase headed by Lee Beaman has gone better than expected,” Carr said, adding he expects to make an announcement in April.
By Erik Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The House on Thursday voted to send to the governor a contentious bill that would allow the state’s nearly 400,000 handgun carry permit holders to store firearms in their vehicles no matter where they are parked.
Before the vote, Speaker Beth Harwell assured Republican colleagues that the measure is endorsed by the National Rifle Association and that members of the business community are “holding their noses” about its passage.
The chamber voted 72-22 to pass the measure, sponsored by Republican Rep. Jeremy Faison of Cosby, after rejecting a series of Democratic proposals to maintain business owners’ rights to ban weapons on their property and to create exceptions for schools and colleges.
“We have just under 400,000 law abiding citizens who have gone through the necessary process to obtain a handgun carry permit and have proved their worth to carry a gun,” Faison said. “The least we can do is allow them to keep this gun locked in their car as they go to work and carry in their daily lives.”
News release from House Democratic Caucus
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – House Democratic Leader Craig Fitzhugh was joined today by members of the House Democratic Caucus at a press conference to discuss upcoming amendments to HB118, the ‘Guns in Parking Lots’ bill sponsored by Rep. Faison in the House and Speaker Ramsey in the Senate.
“We know the majority wants to pass this bill and pass it quickly,” said Leader Fitzhugh. “It’s made a mad dash through the Senate and the House, in some cases coming out of committee in less than six minutes. That’s why we’re here today previewing the amendments and laying out our concerns.”
Leader Fitzhugh has introduced seven amendments to the bill. These amendments would protect private property rights and promote public safety while still preserving the rights of handgun permit holders to carry their firearms with them.
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.”
The “guns in parking lots” bill pending in the Legislature will not repeal a current law that allows a “non-student adult” to keep a gun in a car on school grounds, according to an opinion issued by state Attorney General Bob Cooper on Monday.
The bill (SB142) has already passed the Senate and is scheduled for a House vote on Thursday. It declares that persons with a handgun carry permit can keep guns in their cars virtually anywhere, including parking lots of companies that ban guns on property.
The bill also declares that permit holders can take guns on school grounds, including colleges and universities, “notwithstanding” a current statute that generally bans them. The old law, however, already has an exception declaring a “non-student adult” can keep a gun in his or her car on a campus.
Gov. Bill Haslam and others have raised the question of whether the new bill would effectively make it illegal for those “non-student adults” to keep guns in their cars on a public school or university campus. Cooper, formally asked that question by Board of Regents Chancellor John Morgan, said the answer was no.
“SB142 carves out an additional exception to the present prohibition of firearms and firearm ammunition on school property,” the opinion says. “This new exception to the criminal offense outlined in (relevant state law) does not explicitly or implicitly repeal the current exceptions.”
“While the various exceptions listed in current law and created by SB142 may overlap with each other, they are not inconsistent or in conflict with each other, and the fact that a person may come within more than one exception poses no disruption in the harmonious operation of the provisions of this statute,” the opinion says.
— Note: The full opinion is HERE.