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.
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.
Legislation granting handgun permit holders the right to take their weapons anywhere they wish – so long as the guns are kept inside a motor vehicle – may also put a new restriction on persons who lack a permit, Gov. Bill Haslam and others suggest.
The bill sponsored by Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey (SB142) is virtually assured of passage on the Senate floor Monday evening and House Speaker Beth Harwell has predicted it will be approved by the House as well. The House companion bill, sponsored by Rep. Jeremy Faison, R-Cosby, faces its first committee vote on Tuesday.
The measure applies to permit holders whose weapons are “kept from ordinary observation and locked within the trunk, glove box, or interior of the person’s privately owned motor vehicle or a container securely affixed to such vehicle if the permit holder is not in the vehicle.”
In that situation, the bill basically lets the permit holder – there are 371,800 of them in Tennessee, according to the preamble of the legislation – park his or her car anywhere with the gun inside. This includes the parking lot of businesses where guns are prohibited by company policy as well as schools and university campuses.
The legislation also grants businesses immunity from lawsuits resulting from death or injury to someone because of a gun kept inside a vehicle in accordance with the proposed law’s provisions.
It is Ramsey’s attempt at compromise on what he calls “guns in cars” legislation that strirred considerable controversy last year. A bill pushed then by the National Rifle Association was broader, covering all gunowners – not just those with carry permits. The bill failed with the business lobby ardently opposed and Second Amendment ardently supporting it.
The language of the bill says the new law will apply “notwithstanding” various laws now on the books. One of those is a law that generally prohibits possession of guns on school grounds and university campuses. But there’s an exception in the current law for a “non-student adult” who keeps his or her weapon locked in a car.
Thus, as Haslam noted in an appearance before the Tennessee Press Association last week, current law already allows most citizens – so long as they’re not a student or a school employee covered by an employment agreement – to keep a gun in their car on a campus.
The governor has declined to take a position on the bill, but has repeatedly declared his key concern is assuring “safety on campus.” A consideration in deciding whether he will sign the bill, Haslam said, is the possibility that “it actually is more restrictive than the law is now.”
In other words, the “notwithstanding” provision giving permit holders the right to take guns on campus appears at the same time to be repealing the present law allowing a “non-student adult” to keep a gun in his or her car. Some university officials said in interviews they believe that to be the case as well.
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.
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.