published Friday, February 17th, 2012

Governor Bill Haslam wants narrower ‘guns in parking lots’ bill

Should workers be able to keep guns in their vehicles on public and private employers’ parking lots?

NASHVILLE — Gov. Bill Haslam and the Senate and House speakers want to narrow the scope of proposed legislation that lets workers keep guns in their vehicles on public and private employers’ parking lots.

The National Rifle Association has dubbed the bill the “employee safe commute” act. The Tennessee Firearms Association also backs the legislation.

“The current bill that’s out there we feel like is a little overly broad, and we’d like to see it addressed some more, which I think is in the process,” said Haslam, a Republican.

Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, said the bill should have exclusions for secure parking lots, such as those that are fenced. Only workers with handgun-carry permits should be able to bring weapons on company property, he said.

“I understand private property rights, and I understand certain parking lots where they shouldn’t be,” said Ramsey, who sponsored the state’s original handgun-carry permit law. “But there are some almost-public parking lots” where permit holders should be able to keep guns in their cars.

“Now apparently, some of the bills are much broader than that,” Ramsey added. “And that’s not what I’m in favor of and never have been in favor of.”

The Associated Press has reported that a bill sponsored by Sen. Mike Faulk, R-Kingsport, and Rep. Eddie Bass, D-Prospect, would extend protections to gun owners who don’t have carry permits.

House Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville, said the current bills go “way beyond” what anyone, including the sponsors, originally intended.

She said she and Ramsey will make sure “that bill will not move until we have made proper amendment and get it more aligned with what sponsors thought the intent of the bill was,” she said.

On whether secure parking lots should be exempted, Harwell said she wants a bill that’s “business friendly.”

“We’re not in the business of doing anything to harm the businesses that we currently have in place in Tennessee,” she said.

In a recent email, Tennessee Firearms Association Executive Director John Harris told gun owners “it is time to flood the offices of the legislature with our demands” on the bill. He also issued a warning to “Speaker Harwell and her lieutenants” to respect Second Amendment rights.

If they don’t take conservative interests seriously, Harris wrote, “it will soon be time to work to replace them from their thrones on Mount Olympus.”

Haslam said threats of political reprisal are a constant in his job.

“Literally, five times a day I have somebody say, ‘Oh boy, if y’all don’t do this, we’re going to unleash all the power of fill-in-the-blank on you.”

about Andy Sher...

Andy Sher is a Nashville-based staff writer covering Tennessee state government and politics for the Times Free Press. A Washington correspondent from 1999-2005 for the Times Free Press, Andy previously headed up state Capitol coverage for The Chattanooga Times, worked as a state Capitol reporter for The Nashville Banner and was a contributor to The Tennessee Journal, among other publications. Andy worked for 17 years at The Chattanooga Times covering police, health care, county government, ...

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