A report from Hank Hayes:
BLOUNTVILLE — Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey told higher education officials Monday that contrary to their wishes, he will introduce legislation to allow handgun carry permit holders to keep their weapons locked up in their personal vehicles.
“I’ve already got it drafted …The (newspaper) headline will be ‘Guns On Campus,’ but that’s not what we’re talking about,” Ramsey, R-Blountville, said of the bill at an annual luncheon held at Northeast State Community College between area lawmakers and higher education officials affiliated with the Tennessee Board of Regents (TBR).
College campus police chiefs, in addition to business interests, opposed a bill in the last legislative session to prevent employers and landowners from prohibiting gun permit holders from storing guns in locked personal vehicles. The bill didn’t make it to floor votes in the House or Senate.
Dean Blevins, director of the Tennessee Technology Center at Elizabethton, reminded lawmakers early in the meeting that TBR opposes “any attempt to expand the presence of guns on college campuses” and asked them to exempt the higher education system out of any gun legislation.
After Blevins spoke, higher education operational and capital needs dominated the luncheon discussion until Ramsey took his gun permit card out of his wallet and held it up.
“It amazes me that when you put g-u-n in a sentence, people seem to lose common sense,” Ramsey, R-Blountville, said. “Something is going to pass this year. I want to put this behind us and forget about it. …About four percent of the people in the state of Tennessee have a gun carry permit card. …You have to take a half-day class, take a test on a (shooting) range, and go through a TBI (Tennessee Bureau of Investigation) and FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) background check.
By Erik Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Leaders in the Tennessee Statehouse are hoping for what they call a reasonable solution to a legislative fight over a bill seeking to guarantee employees the right to store firearms in cars parked at work.
But not everyone is convinced that cooler heads will prevail over the issue that has Republicans torn between their loyalties to gun rights advocates and the business community.
The Tennessee Chamber of Commerce and Industry “doesn’t have any hope” that there will be an obvious way to bridge competing interests between gun and property rights advocates, said Bill Ozier, the group’s chairman.
“We’re preparing for the fight again,” he said. “We’re not very optimistic.”
The measure introduced this spring would have allowed anyone to store a firearm in their vehicle at work. The proposal was later whittled down to apply to the state’s 376,000 handgun carry permit holders. But large employers like FedEx and Volkswagen balked at giving up control over whether guns were kept in their lots.
Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey said he’s convinced employees already lock up their firearms in their vehicles parked at work, and he said he wants to quickly make the practice legal, according to Andrea Zelinski. Ramsey said he plans to hammer out a compromise early next year over legislation that last year pinned Republicans between gun rights advocates — who want to commute to work with their firearms — and the business community, which wants to retain the right to ban guns on their property.
“If you’re a gun carry permit holder and you keep a gun in your car locked in your glove compartment, then you ought to be able to leave it there. That’s not going to bother anybody,” Ramsey told reporters following a State Building Commission meeting on Capitol Hill Thursday.
“I will guarantee you that there are gun carry permit holders that have a firearm in their car in their parking lot at work as we’re sitting here speaking,” Ramsey said. “All we’re doing is we’re making those people legal. It’s silly that we’re spending this much time spinning our wheels.”
By Eric Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Gov. Bill Haslam says it’s too early to tell whether the defeat of House Republican Caucus Chairwoman Debra Maggart in last week’s primary will cause lawmakers to revive a gun bill championed by the National Rifle Association.
The NRA put up more than $86,000 against Maggart in the race, claiming she was instrumental in blocking legislation to guarantee employees the right to store weapons in vehicles parked at work, regardless of businesses’ wishes.
Haslam has said he supports the measure, but only with exceptions built in for large employers. The NRA wants a more blanket ban on keeping guns from being stored in parking lots.
The governor told reporters after a higher education meeting in Memphis on Tuesday that responses from lawmakers on the NRA-backed bill have been varied since Maggart’s ouster.
“There’s some who are like, ‘That makes me mad, that makes we want to fight,’ to ‘Let’s work out something before we even go into session,'” he said.
“It’s a little early to comment on exactly what the balance of the General Assembly will look like,” Haslam said. “But does that guarantee that it will be talked about next year? Yes.”
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.”
NRA Political Victory Fund memo to media:
As you may know, the National Rifle Association is launching an independent expenditure campaign to defeat Rep. Debra Maggart, Republican Caucus Chair of the Tennessee General Assembly in the upcoming August 2 primary election (http://tinyurl.com/6ou54az). We believe that Rep. Maggart is no longer qualified to represent District 45 and that Lt. Col. Courtney Rogers is the best candidate for this position.
As Tennesseans, we were taught to stand up for what we believe and not say one thing and do another, but unfortunately that is exactly what Deb Maggart has done to the people she represents. She claims to support our gun rights publicly, but behind closed doors she cut backroom political deals to ensure vital self-defense legislation allowing hard-working Tennesseans to protect themselves was never allowed to come to the floor for a debate or vote. I know, because I was there.
Recently, Rep. Maggart sent an email… to the entire GOP caucus criticizing our opposition to her and noted in her opening paragraph what she felt was a lack of political donations from our organization. Rep. Maggart also dismissed the concerns of more than 100,000 dues-paying NRA members who are proud to call Tennessee home, wrongly suggesting that this campaign is driven by Washington, D.C. operatives rather than by the concerns of honest Tennesseans who want to be able to protect themselves.
While Rep. Maggart might only be concerned with campaign contributions and political maneuvering, we remain concerned with policy and protecting our citizens. The people of Tennessee deserve better and this is why we are working to educate them with this campaign.
The National Rifle Association is spending $75,000 to unseat House Republican Caucus Chairwoman Debra Maggart while asking all state legislators whether they will side next year with the organization, even if it means breaking with GOP leadership.
In a filing with the state Registry of Election Finance, the NRA Political Victory Fund disclosed plans to spend a total of $75,373 in the House District 45 Republican primary, roughly half designated for attacking the Hendersonville lawmaker and half toward helping her opponent, Courtney Rogers.
In a March 31 report, Maggart reported $86,066 cash on hand in her campaign account while Rogers, a retired Air Force officer, had $3,585. New reports are due next Monday and will include results of a fundraiser Gov. Bill Haslam co-hosted for Maggart.
The NRA filed its report listing the new expenditures ahead of the deadline. Other than attacking Maggart and promoting Rogers, the only spending listed in the report is a $2,500 donation to the campaign of Rep. Joshua Evans, R-Greenbrier.
The National Rifle Association wants Tennessee legislative candidates to declare whether they will back Republican leaders or the NRA next year if that’s what it takes to put a controversial guns-in-parking lots bill up for a full vote, reports the Chattanooga Times-Free Press. In a gun-issues survey sent to Republican and Democratic candidates, the NRA devotes two of 27 questions to the Safe Commute Act, which cleared most committees but never came up for House and Senate floor votes this year.
The NRA-backed bill, as amended, sought to block public and private employers’ ability to bar workers, customers and most visitors from keeping firearms in locked vehicles on company property, provided the weapons are stored out of sight.
The survey asks candidates if they would support the bill and blames Republican leaders for blocking full House and Senate votes this year.
“As a legislator, would you follow the demands of party leadership even if they run contrary to the NRA’s legislative agenda?” the survey asks.
In an interview, NRA spokesman Andrew Arulandandam called the survey question “pretty straightforward and self-explanatory.”
“At the NRA we’re not shy. We don’t mince words,” he said.
….House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga, said the survey question “sounds like they were asking, ‘Will you do what we tell you to do instead of sticking by leadership?'”
…When Democrats controlled the General Assembly, the NRA routinely criticized leadership for bottling up gun bills.
This election cycle, Democrats aren’t shedding any tears for the GOP chieftains.
“It’s the residue of the Republicans promising the moon [while in the minority], knowing they couldn’t deliver anything” Senate Democratic Leader Jim Kyle of Memphis said. “And now that they’re piloting the space shuttle, it’s different.”
Switching metaphors, Kyle said, “It’s the chickens coming home to roost.”
With their leaders under political attack from Second Amendment advocates, Republicans on a House committee rallied behind them Tuesday to kill legislation to advance gun rights on two fronts.
The harshest attack came from John Harris, president of the Tennessee Firearms Association, who said in an email to supporters that House Republican Caucus Chairman Debra Maggart should be politically crucified.
The National Rifle Association was more mild mannered, but still used statewide automated telephone calls to criticize Gov. Bill Haslam, House Speaker Beth Harwell and Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey for opposing two bills.
One measure (HB3560) would block employers from prohibiting their employees from bringing guns to work, provided they are left in a locked car in a parking lot. The other (HB3559) prohibits discrimination against employees because of gun ownership – including a ban on asking whether a worker owns guns.
The so-called “guns in parking lots” bill was killed on a voice vote in the House Calendar Committee, a 25-member panel with only four Democratic members. The Republicans are all in leadership positions filled by appointment of Harwell.
The anti-discrimination bill died on a 15-8 vote after sponsor Rep. Eddie Bass, D-Prospect, specifically asked for a roll call voted.
News release from Sen. Jim Kyle:
NASHVILLE — Senate Democratic Leader Jim Kyle called on House and Senate Republicans to support floor votes on a bill allowing Tennesseans to store guns in vehicles on businesses’ parking lots, regardless of the business owners’ personal preferences.
“I would respectfully ask that the minority yield to the majority of members on this bill, so that we might have a fair and open vote,” Kyle said. “I can’t vote against this bill if the members won’t allow it to be heard on the floor.”
Kyle’s motion to suspend the rules and place Senate Bill 3002 on Tuesday’s Senate floor calendar failed with 17 yes votes. The motion requires two-thirds of members pressing a button – either yes, no or “present not voting” – to support the motion.
Of the 13 members who voted no or registered as “present not voting,” 12 were Republicans. Another three Republicans were in the Senate chamber, but did not press a button at all.
An Associated Press report Monday night quoted an anonymous House Republican who said that House Republicans had decided against a floor vote on the bill. Guns rights advocates, including members of the National Rifle Association, support the legislation.
Kyle told his Senate colleagues Monday night that he plans to make the same motion when the Senate reconvenes Tuesday.
“We have another chance to ensure this bill has a fair hearing later this week,” Kyle said. “I would hope that some Republicans might reconsider their stance against a bill that affects many of their constituents.”