State Rep. Gerald McCormick says the new Republican Caucus Firearms Issues Task Force he has established will study state gun laws and “identify if any changes may need to be made.” After the vast loosening of gun-carry rights in Tennessee and most other states in recent years, McCormick’s remark can only be taken as doublespeak for another round of gun laws like the guns-in-bars and guns-in-parks laws that the Legislature has already passed — or worse.
It is noteworthy that McCormick decided to create the task force — a group of seven conspicuously pro-gun legislators — only after the Tennessee Firearms Association, a more-guns-the-better group, criticized the Legislature for failing to pass guns-on-campus and guns-in-trunks laws in this year’s legislative session.
Both were vigorously opposed by more clear-thinking citizens than our legislators, to be sure. College presidents, faculty and their local and campus police, along with many students, rose in sharp opposition to allowing university employees with gun-carry permits to carry guns on campus. They reasonably feared that official tolerance of looser gun-carry rights on campus would invite more violence rather than thwart it.
Business owners and their lobbyists similarly objected to the guns-in-trunks law, which would require private businesses to allow employees to bring their guns to work and leave them in their locked cars. Who could blame them? There already has been a steady stream of stories about disgruntled workers who turn up at their plants and offices to shoot and murder co-workers. Why make it easier for an angry worker to return from a smoke break packing heat and ready to dispatch more innocent people to kingdom come?
After the Legislature failed to get those reckless bills passed earlier this year, TFA President John Harris called the Republicans a “spineless” bunch and threatened election-year fallout.
McCormick says the firearms caucus group will “study ways we can protect the Second Amendment rights of Tennesseans and will make recommendations to our majority about good public policy we all can support.” He added, “I think is a worthwhile effort to streamline the process and build consensus within the General Assembly.”
Who is he kidding? McCormick should be thinking about protecting people from over-reaching Second Amendment abuses. The amendment does mention gun-rights in connection with “a well regulated militia,” and even the U.S. Supreme Court agrees that reasonable state regulations on gun carry may be preserved.
McCormick, however, is obviously trying to make political peace with Harris. Yet that’s something he can never accomplish without giving away gun regulations that the vast majority of Tennesseans — if not the Tennessee Firearms Association’s rabid gun-rights minority — believe are reasonable and necessary.
Even if the Legislature were to approve the guns-on-campus and guns-in-trunks laws — the latter is euphemistically known as the “employee parking lot protection” act — Harris and his TFA group still wouldn’t be happy. Indeed, the group’s top legislative priority is what is known as a “constitutional carry” law.
That proposed law would essentially eliminate the need for a gun-carry permit, which entails a requirement for a legal background check and a training course. In its place would be a law, like one passed by Vermont, that allows anyone over the age of 21 to own a firearm without a permit and carry it anywhere.
Arizona and other some other states, usually with encouragement from the National Rifle Association and related gun-carry groups, are considering similar provisions. The simple fact is that the NRA and its allies are pushing state legislatures to create a vast and largely unregulated gun-carry culture. Their agenda is extreme and beyond the bounds of good sense. At their bidding, for example, more than 20 states over the past three years have passed laws allowing mentally ill people who have been denied the right to purchase guns to petition for such rights to be reinstated.
At some point, public safety and group sanity have to take hold. Expanding gun rights without reason ultimately would leave all citizens living in a land of the quick or the dead. Public safety won’t come that way. It’s delusional to pander to that ideology, and state lawmakers are wrong to embrace it.