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.”
Preventing a repeat of the Connecticut school shootings may be better addressed through mental health services than new gun laws, Gov. Bill Haslam said Monday.
Haslam, questioned by reporters about the murders, also said his administration will hold a conference on school security next month. He said the discussion could include having more people at schools trained in dealing with violent attacks, as proposed by state Sen. Frank Niceley, R-Strawberry Plains.
Niceley said he is working on legislation that would require all Tennessee schools to either have a “school resource officer” for security – as most high schools do now — or train one or more staff members in use of firearms and dealing with violent attacks.
Haslam said he was sickened by the Connecticut slayings and expects them to trigger “a national debate (on guns) over the next three or four months.” But he was cautious about saying what his position would be in any such discussions.
“I don’t know that a lot of (gun-related) legislation I’ve seen so far that could have stopped what happened there,” he said. “I don’t know that I see a big need to change things.”
The Violence Policy Center cites 10 Tennessee cases since December 2008 in which 13 people have died when shot by handgun-permit holders, reports ‘Action’ Andy Sher. In five of the 10, the shooters were convicted of murder, and in a sixth the man killed his girlfriend then killed himself. “The gun lobby’s worldview is the good guy is always stopping the bad guy,” said Kristen Rand, legislative director for the Violence Policy Center. “I think we’re just seeing the exact opposite.”
Rand, whose group culled much information from news accounts of shootings, arrests and court proceedings, called the Tennessee figures the “tip of the iceberg.”
Nationwide, the group estimates that, since May 2007, at least 381 people — including 11 law enforcement officers — have been killed by permit holders in incidents not considered as legitimate self-defense by police.
John Harris with the Tennessee Firearms Association, a gun-rights group, questioned basing the information on news accounts.
“First, by law, the Tennessee Department of Safety has to track data concerning handgun-permit holders who are charged with crimes and the disposition of those crimes,” said Harris, an attorney.
He said the Violence Policy Center’s “reliance on news reports, which seldom track dispositions, is suspect because they’re intentionally selecting less reliable data as to how many of these permit holders were wrongfully charged in shooting incidents as opposed to those [deemed] justifiable.”
He noted permit holders must pass criminal background checks and complete an approved handgun safety course.
Rand said the group relies on news accounts because many states either don’t collect the data or else don’t make it publicly available.
Violence Policy Center data, as well as additional reporting by the Chattanooga Times Free Press and other news organizations, show five permit holders in Tennessee have been convicted of first-degree murder or second-degree murder out of the total 10 cases the group found. Charges are pending in three other cases.
In a ninth case, a Memphis permit holder shot his girlfriend to death, then committed suicide as police prepared to arrest him on murder charges, according to news accounts.
In the 10th case, an apparent road rage incident in June, a Middle Tennessee permit holder shot another motorist in Ashland City. Despite being wounded in his chest and hip, the other man managed to wrestle the gun from the permit holder and shoot him dead, said Ashland Detective Jason Matlock. The wounded driver has been indicted for voluntary manslaughter and reckless endangerment.