By Erik Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A bill to allow Tennesseans with handgun carry permits to store loaded firearms in their vehicles no matter where they are parked cleared its final legislative committee Wednesday before a full House vote.
The House Civil Justice Committee approved the measure on a voice vote. Supporters argued that companies still could prohibit employees from bringing weapons on their property, but the bill would eliminate criminal charges against violators.
“We’re not setting a policy of how a business deals with its employees,” said Republican Rep. Jeremy Faison of Cosby, the bill’s main sponsor in the House.
Legislative attorney Thomas Tigue said the bill would not alter company policies.
“If your employee manual says you can’t drink at work, and you’re over 21 and it’s legal for you to drink, you can still suffer employment consequences,” he said. “This bill does not affect what does happen or does not happen.”
The Senate approved its version 28-5 earlier this month as GOP leaders have sought to avoid a repeat of last year’s drawn-out fight between gun advocates and the business community.
Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey disputed assertions Thursday that his bill making it legal for workers to store firearms in vehicles at work leaves them vulnerable to being fired by unhappy employers, reports Andy Sher. “I think if it’s legal for them to have it in their car, they [employers] couldn’t terminate them based on doing a legal act,” the Blountville Republican told reporters. “There’s nothing illegal about having them there.”
He said it is “not my intent at all” to leave workers unprotected. Earlier this week, the House sponsor of Ramsey’s bill, Rep. Jeremy Faison, R-Cosby, said the Senate-passed bill will not protect gun-carry permit holders from Tennessee’s “at will” employment law.
State law allows employers to fire, suspend or discipline workers for any reason or none at all, according to the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development’s website.
“If a business decides to fire someone or to reprimand someone, that is their rule,” Faison told the House Civil Justice Subcommittee, which approved the bill. “This is an at-will state, and they’ll still be able to do whatever they want with a person who has a gun in their car.”
A House panel on Wednesday quickly advanced a bill that would block employers, businesses, colleges and churches’ ability to bar handgun-carry permit holders from storing firearms in vehicles parked on their property, reports the Chattanooga TFP. But the bill’s sponsor acknowledges that nothing in the measure would prevent employers from legally firing permit-holding workers who keep guns in their vehicles while on the job.
Rep. Jeremy Faison, R-Cosby, said the Senate-passed bill doesn’t protect permit holders from Tennessee’s existing “at will” employment law.
That law allows employers to fire, suspend or discipline workers for any reason, good or bad, or for no reason at all.
“We are not going to dictate policy-setting at a business,” Faison said in response to a question posed to him during the House Civil Justice Subcommittee.
Faison said “if a business decides to fire someone or to reprimand someone, that is their rule. … You can fire, this is an at-will state and they’ll still be able to do whatever they want with a person who has a gun in their car.”
Speaking to reporters later, Faison said, “I would discourage [businesses firing workers] and I hope that businesses won’t go that way. I would say if there was an uprising in the state and you started seeing people being fired left and right I wouldn’t be surprised if the Legislature revisited it.”
But he said, “I don’t know of any company who’s just eager to go fire their employees. They already know who has guns” and don’t do it now.
By Erik Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A bill to prevent businesses, schools and colleges from banning firearms in their parking lots was approved by a House subcommittee after a six-minute hearing on Wednesday.
The measure, sponsored by Republican Rep. Jeremy Faison of Cosby, would give the state’s 390,343 handgun carry permit holders the ability to store firearms in their vehicles parked on company or school property.
Faison argued that permit holders who undergo background checks and meet training requirements are “worthy of carrying … and keeping a gun.”
Democratic Rep. Sherry Jones of Nashville was the only member of the panel to raise questions about the measure and to convey her opposition when the bill was advanced to the full House Civil Justice Committee on a voice vote .
“So you could go to church, school, drive down to the guy’s house down the block? Any restaurant, any business anywhere?” she asked, referring to those storing firearms in their vehicles.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A proposal that would allow handgun carry permit holders to store firearms in their vehicles no matter where they are parked is headed for a vote on the Senate floor.
The Senate Judiciary Committee passed its version of the bill 8-0 on Tuesday. (Note: Sen. Ophelia Ford, D-Memphis, abstained) It’s now being scheduled for a full Senate vote and could be on the Senate floor later this week.
The measure backed by the National Rifle Association failed last year amid property rights arguments made by the business community. The NRA and other gun rights advocates blamed House Republican Caucus Chairwoman Debra Maggart for the bill’s failure, and bankrolled a successful effort to oust her in the primary.
Bill Ozier, chairman of the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce and Industry, says the proposal is better than last year’s. But he says it still needs specifics.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The main House sponsor of a bill seeking to guarantee handgun permit holders the right to store firearms in their vehicles says he misspoke when he suggested that he routinely breaks the law.
Republican Rep. Jeremy Faison of Cosby told WPLN-FM (http://bit.ly/XEMKhi) that while he’s never obtained a state-issued permit, he’s “carried a gun all (his) life.”
“One day I’ll probably get caught if I don’t get a permit, and I’ll get in trouble,” he told the public radio station.
Faison told The Associated Press on Monday that what he meant to say was that he transports a gun inside his car, which does not require a permit as long as ammunition is stored separately from the firearm.
“What I was saying is routinely I have a gun in my car, and that’s not illegal in Tennessee,” he said in a phone interview. “It just came out wrong. I have a gun in my car — we weren’t talking about me carrying a gun.”
Faison and Republican Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey of Blountville are the main sponsors of the bill to prohibit businesses from banning people with handgun carry permits from storing weapons in cars parked on company lots.
The proposal is opposed by the business community on the ground that it interferes with their property rights. The Senate version is scheduled for a hearing in the Judiciary Committee on Tuesday afternoon.
By Erik Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Efforts to land the assembly of another Volkswagen model in Tennessee have been kicked into high gear following the German automaker’s unveiling of its CrossBlue SUV prototype at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit last week.
Officials hope their chances won’t be undermined by renewed efforts in the state Legislature to enact a law to guarantee employees the right to store firearms in vehicles parked at work.
Volkswagen began making the midsize Passat sedan at its $1 billion plant in Chattanooga in 2011. The facility was designed to be able to accommodate the expansion to double its current size if needed.
Volkswagen, which has given largely glowing reviews of its experience in Tennessee, has spoken out against the guns proposal as hurting the company’s security efforts at the plant.
Republican Gov. Bill Haslam, who has tried to moderate the proposal seeking to allow workers to override employers’ wishes, acknowledged that the measure creates difficulties.
“Volkswagen has been up front that that’s a concern of theirs,” Haslam said. “We obviously would like to get that SUV.”
With guns virtually certain to be a hot topic in the legislative session that begins next week, Sen. Stacey Campfield has becoming something of a point man on two firearm fronts.
A University of Tennessee official, meanwhile, acknowledged that Knoxville Republican is correct in one of his recent contentions related to the gun debate: A little-noticed provision of state law, enacted decades ago, already allows weapons to be kept by many people in locked cars on campus parking lots.
House Speaker Beth Harwell, after a talk with Campfield, has assigned two Republican legislators — Reps. Steve McManus of Cordova and Judd Matheny of Tullahoma — to lead a study of Campfield’s plans for a “don’t ask, don’t tell” law dealing with employees keeping guns in cars parked on employer premises.
McManus and Matheny met with interested parties on Wednesday. McManus said afterward they came to no conclusions, but plan to meet again next week when they will hopefully have a written copy of the Campfield plan to serve as a working draft in seeking a compromise.
The National Rifle Association unsuccessfully pushed a “guns in parking lots” bill last year. Campfield’s proposal is to generally authorize those who may legally possess guns to bring them onto business or government properties so long as the weapons are locked inside a vehicle, much as the failed NRA proposal did. But he adds provisions.
Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey and state Sen. Stacey Campfield are both proposing what they view as compromises in a legislative controversy over keeping guns in cars — even in the parking lots of businesses that ban weapons on their premises.
One stark difference: Ramsey’s proposal, as outlined to reporters last week, would apply only to those with a handgun carry permit. Knoxville Republican Campfield’s plan, which he calls “don’t ask, don’t tell for guns,” would apply to those who may legally possess firearms.
In the last legislative session, a bill drafted by the National Rifle Association stirred a long-running dispute between Second Amendment advocates and business lobbyists. The proposal, which failed to pass, would have declared that Tennesseans can keep guns in their locked cars, even if the vehicle is parked on property where the owner prohibits guns.
Ramsey said he is drafting legislation — with an intent to push for passage early in the 2013 legislative session — that would allow handgun permit holders to keep their guns in cars at all times and in all places. But in “a secured area” where a business prohibits guns, the permit holder employee would have to provide a letter to his or her employer stating that “there may be a gun in the car,” Ramsey said.
By Erik Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Republican Gov. Bill Haslam says the exclusion of college campuses is key to an agreement on a bill to allow employees to store their firearms in vehicles parked at work.
The governor told reporters after a speech to a Nashville Republican group on Tuesday that he expects lawmakers to craft a compromise on the measure that was the subject of much discord earlier this year.
The business lobby opposed the measure backed by the National Rifle Association on the basis that it intrudes on their property rights. Gun advocates argue that banning guns in company lots effectively prevents workers from being armed during their commute.
Haslam said his administration won’t take a lead on the issue but said it will fight to keep educational institutions out of the final version.
“We will definitely not offer a bill on this,” Haslam said. “It’s not one of the issues of primary importance to us in this session.”
Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, has announced he will push for an early compromise on the measure in hopes of pushing the contentious issue out of the limelight. Unlike the early drafts of last session’s bill, the new version would apply only to people with state-issued handgun carry permit.