published Monday, July 15th, 2013

Tennessee Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey says gun law needs clarification

Ron Ramsey
Ron Ramsey
Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

NASHVILLE — Tennessee Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, who backed a law allowing handgun carry permit holders to keep weapons in their vehicles at work, says the law needs clarifying.

Employers point to an opinion by Attorney General Robert Cooper in saying their policies banning weapons from their property have not changed.

“I hate that the attorney general has muddied the waters on this,” Ramsey told the Knoxville News Sentinel.

Cooper said Tennessee employers can terminate workers “at will,” for any reason or no reason. In an opinion he delivered in May, Cooper said the new statute would have no impact on companies’ ability to fire workers.

Ramsey said he “probably” would support an anticipated push to clarify the statute in the next legislative session. The expected change would be to state that an employer could not discharge a carry permit holder solely for having a handgun in a locked vehicle.

Such a revisiting of the statute would run counter to Gov. Bill Haslam’s stated wish that there be no gun legislation in the 2014 session.

Among employers who have declared they have not changed their ban on weapons in vehicles parked on their property is the University of Tennessee. A spokeswoman for the Tennessee Board of Regents says the same policy is in effect at the Regents universities and colleges.

Eastman Chemical spokeswoman Kristin Sturgill said the company reviewed the statute and the attorney general’s opinion and “concluded our policy did not require amendment in light of the new legislation.”

Ramsey said Cooper’s opinion is wrong, citing a Tennessee Supreme Court decision that found there is an exception to the “at will” doctrine when an employee is following an established, legally defined public policy. Ramsey said the new law established a clear public policy on handguns in locked vehicles.

He later inserted into the official legislative record a statement that defines the “legislative intent” of the law.

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