published Friday, April 25th, 2014

Never mind what you think, your lawmakers are listening to the NRA

The bill Gov. Nathan Deal signed into law allows guns in more public places than at any time in the past century.
The bill Gov. Nathan Deal signed into law allows guns in more public places than at any time in the past century.
Photo by John Rawlston /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Thursday's front page of the Chattanooga Times Free Press was a snapshot of the confused world we live in.

At the top of the page, one headline screamed, "Carry on" about Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal signing into a law what's been called the "guns everywhere bill" at a barbecue in Ellijay, Ga. The National Rifle Association has called Georgia's new Safe Carry Protection Act "the most comprehensive pro-gun reform bill in state history."

Right beside that headline is another: "Experts, prayer to guide Haslam." That story is about how Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam "as a 'Christian man' would approach the 'super difficult' decision for the state to carry out an execution." Tennessee has 10 convicted murderers with scheduled execution dates in the next two years.

As a nation, we have growing doubts about the death penalty. A 2013 poll by the Pew Research Center found support for the death penalty has fallen sharply -- by 23 percentage points, from 78 percent to 55 percent -- since 1996, the lowest level in almost two decades. The poll also found a 10-point drop in just the last two years in respondents who say they "strongly favor" the death penalty, from 28 percent to 18 percent. The percentage of Americans who say they oppose the death penalty has risen to 37 percent.

But also as a nation we favor increased gun control -- even while our politicians don't and gun violence grows. In September 2013, a Huffington Post/YouGov poll found little sympathy for the argument frequently made by gun-rights advocates that people carrying guns would lead to lower gun violence. Respondents rejected that argument by a 44 percent to 38 percent margin.

A month later, a Gallup poll found 49 percent of people thought laws covering the sale of firearms should be made more strict, while 37 percent thought laws should be kept as they are and 13 percent said laws should be less strict.

In Georgia this week, Deal turned a pro-gun bill signing into a political party as he jockeyed to look just as red as his two ultra-conservative 2014 primary challengers. The bill he signed into law allows guns in more public places than at any time in the past century, including churches, bars, and government buildings that do not have security checkpoints, thus the "guns everywhere" moniker.

Tennesseans are fortunate -- for now. The guns-in-parks bill, which would have banned local control of guns in public parks, passed the Senate but was pushed to the end of the legislative calendar, a move that meant the House ran out of time to vote on it before the session ended.

A more sweeping gun law that didn't get passed in the Volunteer State was one that would allow open carry of handguns without state-issued permits. That bill, in essence, does away with any requirement for a permit -- and the training and background checks that go with those permits. Tennessee already allows gun ownership without a permit if the weapon is kept in the home.

Don't be lulled to sleep. Just as the NRA leaned on Georgia, the pro-gun group will continue to focus on Tennessee. The NRA's mode of action is to smother pro-gun candidates with campaign contributions. And they really pour on the contributions to opponents of politicians who oppose loosening gun laws or favor stricter gun laws.

In state capitols, money does seem to talk louder than words -- and clearly louder than public opinion.

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SeaSmokie59er said...

It's a glimpse of what's to come now that corporations and special interest groups are "people" too.

April 25, 2014 at 10:15 p.m.
RShultz210 said...

I wish dearly that the open constitutional carry law had been passed in Tennessee. It was our great chance to actually be able to exercise our 2nd amendment right as we SHOULD be able to instead of having it turned into a privilege we have to pay for, and take some trumped up safety course that really doesn't teach basic gun safety but just political indoctrination on when you can actually shoot and when you can't. I can shoot a gun and take care of it just fine and I've known the basic safety rules since I was a kid in the Boy Scouts. What part of "shall not be infringed" does the State of Tennessee have so much trouble understanding?

April 26, 2014 at 7:27 p.m.
Rickaroo said...

You might get your wish yet, Mr. Shultz. From what I understand the bill is not dead, just stalled. And it seems that our state legislators are every bit as insane as you are about your precious guns.

I'm sure you are a capable and responsible gun owner, and even though guns themselves do not kill or maim people, irresponsible, bad-ass, and crazy people with guns do. And they seem to be doing it with greater and greater frequency. Just how you think that registering and regulating guns and requiring at least a basic course in the care and handling of them goes against your sacrosanct second amendment is beyond me. We require everyone to pass a test before they can operate a vehicle, so why should we not take measures and precautions to make sure that only capable and responsible people be allowed to own or carry something as deadly as a gun? That is not an infringement of the second amendment, that is just plain old common sense - something that you gun nuts seem to be in short supply of. Of course criminals will still get hold of guns illegally and people will still commit crimes with guns - our gun laws are not going to stamp out the illegal activity completely. But anything that will deter or stop a psychologically unstable person or known felon or someone otherwise irresponsible from getting hold of one will still be a positive step. Our laws against murder and theft do not wipe out those crimes either but they do act as a deterrent nonetheless.

I own a gun and I in no way look upon anyone who owns one as a gun "nut" but you people who feel that it is your "right" to carry a gun every friggin' place you please are indeed nuts. I and others like me who have grown up in a country where every place we went used to be considered a gun-free zone have our right NOT to see your ugly weapons of death and destruction hanging from your hips like cowboys in the Wild West. If that's what you think the second amendment means, then I seriously think we need to revisit that amendment, scratch it, and rewrite in terms that are not so ambiguous.

If you want to play cowboy, do it in your own backyard, but keep your ugly guns out of sight of the rest of us who genuinely want to live in a peaceful and peace-loving nation. When you resort to carrying guns everywhere you go, that's called living in and perpetuating a war zone. And that's not living in peace, it's living in fear.

April 26, 2014 at 10 p.m.
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