published Tuesday, July 15th, 2014

Cook: A gun advocate speaks out

It is one thing for me to criticize Tennessee's new gun law, which allows almost anyone and everyone to now carry a loaded firearm -- shotgun, rifle or handgun -- in their car.

It is quite another for Mark Haskins to.

"I may be wrong. I hope I am wrong. But I see a lot of problems with it," he said.

For three decades, Haskins was a Chattanooga police officer. Since 1996, he's been a firearms instructor, and through his current handgun permit carry class at Shooter's Depot has taught thousands of men and women how to earn their carry permit. A half-dozen times during our conversation, he reminded me of his pro-gun stance.

"I am a lifetime member of the NRA," he said. "But there's a big issue here."

The new law took effect on July 1. It removes the earlier safeguards in place regarding who among us could carry a loaded firearm in their vehicle. In the past, citizens were allowed to carry a loaded firearm in their car after they had obtained a state-issued handgun carry permit. (People without permits could keep unloaded firearms in the vehicle provided the ammo was stored separately.)

"There was a good system in place," Haskins said.

Through the process of obtaining a carry permit, people become familiar with our gun laws -- such as when you can and can't shoot at an intruder -- as well as firearm safety and responsibility.

Plus, it weeds out those among us who should not be allowed to carry loaded firearms in public, like felons or DUI offenders, convicted stalkers or patients at mental health institutions. Anyone who has renounced his or her U.S. citizenship. Any illegal immigrants. Any soldier dishonorably discharged.

Can't pass a background check? Can't pass a written test? Or shooting test?

Then, you can't get carry permit.

And you can't drive around with a loaded gun.

"Now you've got a whole lot of people with no training who didn't have to go through the permit class who now may have loaded guns in their cars," Haskins said.

  • photo
    Mark Haskins, formerly of the Chattanooga Police Department, instructs a conceal carry permit class on the proper way to hold and sight a handgun at Sportsman’s Indoor Shooting in Hixson.
    Photo by Staff File Photo /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

The law weakens the value of the carry permit. Now, loaded-gun-carrying-drivers must meet only two conditions:

• They are in lawful possession of the vehicle.

• They are not in violation of state or federal laws regarding gun possession or purchase. That's mainly two classifications of people.

"Convicted felons ... and [anyone] with domestic violence convictions," Haskins said.

In the past, when an officer pulled a driver over and saw a gun inside the car, the burden of responsibility was on the driver: either they've got a permit or they don't.

Now, the burden is on the officers.

• A cop pulls over four men in a car. There's a loaded handgun on the dashboard. Before, someone in the car would have to show a carry permit. Now, no one does.

• A cop pulls over three men in a car. There's a loaded handgun on the floor. The guy driving says it's his, but really, it belongs to the felon in the backseat. What does the officer do?

• A cop pulls over two men in a car, both of whom are carrying loaded handguns and were on their way to commit robbery. They have no carry permit and no prior history. Before, the officer could have asked for their permits, and then acted appropriately once they could not produce any. Now, the officer can't do anything.

• A cop pulls over one man in a car, who has a loaded 12-gauge across his lap. The man is a convicted felon, but doesn't admit that to the officer. How does the officer determine that?

Does he run a criminal background check, based on a hunch, without probable cause?

Do officers start running background checks on everyone? This new law could create a civil rights nightmare.

"We're going to run criminal histories on everybody that we stop now?" Haskins asked.

So how do you know if the driver can legally have that gun or not?

"Exactly," Haskins said.

And that is his greatest concern and greatest frustration with this new law. It puts police officers even deeper in harm's way.

"It's a big problem for officers," he said.

In 2014, we've seen 19 homicides and more than 50 shootings. There were three shootings in one hour on Sunday alone.

"Now, let's say we stopped somebody on the way to one of those shootings and pulled them over. Odds are good they wouldn't have a permit," Haskins said. "We could have stopped them. We could have averted them from that."

Not anymore.

Contact David Cook at or 423-757-6329. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter at DavidCookTFP.

about David Cook...

David Cook is the award-winning city columnist for the Times Free Press, working in the same building where he began his post-college career as a sportswriter for the Chattanooga Free Press. Cook, who graduated from Red Bank High, holds a master's degree in Peace and Justice Studies from Prescott College and an English degree from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. For 12 years, he was a teacher at the middle, high school and university ...

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conservative said...

I am guessing that Mr. Cook is whining about the new gun law.

July 15, 2014 at 7:14 a.m.
Ki said...

You mean just like that retired cop gun trainer in his interview, conservy? Such puzzies, conservy, aren't the? (sarcasm)

Or maybe we would be better of with more whiners like them, instead of those pro-gun nut politicians in Nashville passing these dangerous laws.

July 15, 2014 at 9:41 a.m.
RShultz210 said...

This law is not dangerous and I, for one, am tickled absolutely pink by it. For me, it's one more step on the road to constitutional carry which is what Tennessee SHOULD have had all along! And to Mr. Cook I say: Please take ANYTHING a COP, retired or on active duty, tells you with a large grain of salt. Anyone can pick up the knowledge necessary to learn when you can or can't shoot somebody by simply reading Tennessee Code annotated Title 39, Chapter 11, Part 611 entitled "Self Defense" very carefully and memorizing the pertinent parts. So much for THAT argument. As for cops being worried about people having loaded guns in their cars, whose fault is THAT? They've only killed a bit over 5000 civilians since 911 and they're whining about people defending themselves. What a hoot! Well, sorry Sherlock but you know what? God created men but Sam Colt made them equal, and now the people of Tennessee are a little more equal to the trigger happy Neanderthals who love to act like slave owners and strut around telling people "take your hands out of your pockets" or "get your A$$ back in that car! I didn't tell you could get out!" I know it's going to just be galling in the extreme to have to treat us politely isn't it? And as to your other whine, oh excuse me, I mean argument. Nobody who's got convictions or arrests is going to be stupid enough to leave a gun where you can see it. It's going to hidden as well as they can hide it. Nobody who leaves a gun where you can see it is going to do it unless they KNOW they can pass the NICS background check or a records check. I know you think this is going to be a hardship for the Chattanooga gendarme' but what can I say? "Power fades and glory tumbles. Atsa da way da Pizza crumbles."

July 15, 2014 at 7:19 p.m.
258 said...

I've only read Mr. Cook a few times and two anti-gun articles??? C'mon Cook, can't you find something else to whine about? "Shall not be infringed" obviously is not understood by everyone. Time and time again it has been proven that more guns = less crime.

"the greatest civilization is one where all citizens are equally armed and can only be persuaded, never forced." Maj. L. Caudill USMC (Ret.)

July 15, 2014 at 8:36 p.m.
Rickaroo said...

No liberals that I know of are opposed to the second amendment or anyone's right to own a gun. It's you RWNJs who so loosely interpret the second amendment to mean that you have the right to carry any type of gun anywhere you damn well please that we find disgusting and totally irrational. To think that you can apply something that was written at a time when single-fire muskets were the only firearm in existence and there was no standing militia in place at the time and somehow apply it to today's high-tech world of weaponry is bonkers. Our forefathers could never have conceived of automatic and semi-automatic weapons like we have today. And we have a "well regulated" police force, National Guard, and Military at the ready for defense, such that did not exist then.

These open-carry, minimally regulated gun laws are insane. Only you wannabe cowboys and Rambos with your perverse fetish for guns are rejoicing over them. The vast majority of sane adults see them for what they are: an open invitation for more guns ending up in the hands of more psychologically imbalanced and untrained people, and thus even more gun deaths.

If more guns in the hands of more people means fewer gun deaths, according to you gun nuts, then how come America, with over 3 million guns, has more deaths from guns per capita than any other country? To be so "civilized," We are the most violent nation on earth, killing and incarcerating more of our own than any other country.

And as for that quote from the Marine about what constitutes a great civilization... that's like asking Jack the Ripper what true love is, or asking Mike Tyson to elaborate on Einstein's theory of relativity. I think I'll leave it to the philosophers, historians, and other intellectuals to come up with what constitutes a great civilization, thank you.

July 15, 2014 at 9:34 p.m.
GaussianInteger said...

"Time and time again it has been proven that more guns = less crime."

That is absolute bullsh!t. The US is the most heavily armed country in the world and I would suspect our crime rate is at the top of civilized countries.

Rshultz, spoken like a true piece of crap.

July 15, 2014 at 9:42 p.m.
258 said...

Rickroo, in this case and country you're certainly allowed to be wrong, other place in the world where guns are banned, you're not.

July 15, 2014 at 9:51 p.m.
RShultz210 said...

THANK YOU 258! Maj. Caudill's statement can never be quoted too many times. Mr. Cook's columns are usually pretty good and he's really one of the nicest guys and best columnists this rag employs. But I cannot honestly say that I care very much for his views on guns or gun rights. And I'm afraid that in this case he picked one of the worst people possible to get either information or viewpoint for his column. I expected something about like what he wrote from Rickaroo except I have no idea what an RWNJ is, so perhaps he could enlighten us at some later date. I have heard of this drooling hydrocephalic, GaussianInteger and all I can say for him is at least he is less wordy than most liberals. Perhaps someday some of these people who like to compare anachronisms with modern concepts and congratulate themselves for being so "Clever" will realize that those who live by the sword...get shot by those who don't and that everyone has the right to defend him/herself with whatever weapon they are most proficient with without interference from those who want the government to be out mother and father and control us from cradle to grave.

July 15, 2014 at 10:09 p.m.
Rickaroo said...

Nobody, not even the most liberal of liberals, wants a government "to be our mother and father and control us from cradle to grave." We libs love our freedom as much as you or anybody. But we are mature enough to realize that pure individual freedom in a civilized society does not, cannot exist. There is a good reason for laws and regulations. Very few people, no matter how conscientious and caring they might be, do the right thing voluntarily. We view government, in its ideal sense in a democratic republic such as we are supposed to be, as a pro-active safeguard between runaway greed, power, and self-interest. Capitalism, by its very nature, has greed and self-interest built into it. It is pure folly to think that the free market magically self-corrects and regulates itself. Government acting on behalf of the common people is all that we have. The average person does not have the power or the wealth to stand up to somebody like the Koch brothers or Monsanto.

Socialism is not a bad word, as you libertarians and rabid righties like to try to make people think it is. Capitalism has worked best for the most number of people when it was highly regulated, with a blend of socialism and the free market counterbalancing each other. An excess of either one is not healthy. We accept and acknowledge the good things the free market has to offer, but you righties in your knee-jerk fashion try to make everyone believe that the very existence of any degree of socialism is pure evil. And that is utter nonsense.

July 15, 2014 at 11:03 p.m.
adolphochs said...

But the fact is none of the shooters who killed 19 and shot 50 were pulled over and it's improbable they would have been. If you're going to deal in hypotheticals, cite one with at least a probability of more than 0.001%. I would've thought they teach something along those lines in journalism school.

July 15, 2014 at 11:11 p.m.
RShultz210 said...

By George I think I have it now! R W N J means….Right Wing Nut Job. OK! Well I’d be insulted if I didn’t rate at least THAT from RickARoo!

July 15, 2014 at 11:12 p.m.
RShultz210 said...

Pure individual freedom is what makes a society civilized. If you feel that you cannot trust your neighbors to behave in a civilized manner and that you must have a "government" which is nothing more than a hired dictatorship which promulgates millions of "laws" intended to make people behave as you wish them to, then you have already failed at your attempt to organize a "civilized" society. Our forefathers realized from the start what you are just now learning, and they planned for it with the 2nd amendment. It's too bad that it gets in the way of your efforts to make a mindless slave out of everyone else isn't it?

July 15, 2014 at 11:31 p.m.
Rickaroo said...

RS, you don't even have the good sense to realize how those "restrictive" laws and regulations have served to help you your entire life. From the day you were born you have had a tremendous advantage due to the countless number of ways past government legislation has enabled you to live a life of freedom in this country, It is not IN SPITE of those laws that you have flourished but, in most cases, BECAUSE of them. From public education, to the earned income tax credit to the GI bill to the federal funding of the highway system to TVA and public dams and public parks, to government funding for research to develop the internet, to civil rights for minorities, to the separation of church and state, to zoning laws that enable you to live in peace and quiet without fear of some noisy polluting business setting up next door, to fire and police protection, to clean air and water, to Social Security and Medicare, and on and on and on.

You want pure individual freedom? Go live in a cave or the wilderness. No taxes, laws, or regulations there. But in any society, from the beginning of humankind coming together, there has been government and there has been taxation. Mature people accept those things as the price we have to pay for the advantages of living in a civilized society. You libertarians are nothing more than adolescents, stunted in mind and stuck in some perpetual state whereby you think the world should revolve around your personal notion of freedom.

July 16, 2014 at 12:05 a.m.
LibDem said...

RShultz210 says, If you feel that you cannot trust your neighbors to behave in a civilized manner..." yada, yada. Exactly! Gun guys can't go to McDonald's without a gun stuffed in their whitey-tighties and a bundle of Depends in their backpacks. I can go anywhere in Chattanooga I wish with no gun. Who has freedom?

July 16, 2014 at 2:41 p.m.
Ki said...

Mr. Shultz, do you actually believe cops already with an attitude will become more polite during routine traffic shops because of this law? If anything this law affords them an even greater incentive than they already have to shoot first and ask questions later.

July 16, 2014 at 4:52 p.m.
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