published Saturday, March 16th, 2013

Gov. Bill Haslam signs guns in parking lots bill

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam answers questions during a meeting with the Times Free Press editorial board.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam answers questions during a meeting with the Times Free Press editorial board.
Photo by John Rawlston.

NASHVILLE — Gov. Bill Haslam has signed a bill that would allow people with handgun carry permits to store firearms in their vehicles no matter where they are parked.

The signing comes despite questions about whether the legislation affects employment law in Tennessee because the measure would allow workers to store guns in their cars while parked in their employers' parking lots.

Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey, of Blountville, and four fellow Republican co-sponsors on Thursday submitted a letter for inclusion in the Senate Journal elaborating on their legislative intent for the measure.

While the letter states the bill does not seek to alter the state's "employment-at-will doctrine," it notes that businesses could run into trouble if they seek to enforce a gun ban on their property.

"Employers who terminate employees just for exercising this right may violate the state's clear public policy that handgun carry permit holders are allowed to transport and store firearms or ammunition," the sponsors wrote.

That analysis appears to conflict with statements by the main House sponsor who stressed in committee and during floor debate that the bill wouldn't affect employers' abilities to fire anyone.

The legislation was approved 28-5 in the Senate and 72-22 in the House last month. It's scheduled to take effect July 1.

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