published Friday, March 21st, 2014

Guns and local rule: What happened to that kinder, gentler GOP?

Doesn't it strike anyone as odd that there is so much consternation about shootings in Chattanooga and gunfire in local neighborhoods, yet our state lawmakers are busily trying to undo local laws that prohibit that gunfire and gun carrying?

Georgia lawmakers are putting the finishing touches on a bill that allows guns in bars, churches, airports and certain government buildings.

Tennessee has already made those changes and more -- all weeks and months ago. In Tennessee, people already can take guns pretty much anywhere -- meanwhile, we can't talk about sex at a university.

But it's still not enough for Tennessee lawmakers who seem only able to smell the money -- not the gun smoke -- of the NRA and other pro-gun groups.

Now Volunteer State lawmakers are working feverishly on National Rifle Association-backed bills to prohibit local governments from banning guns in their own city and county parks or other areas. One NRA web- site highlights no fewer than eight such bills making their way toward passage in Tennessee.

Senate Bill 1612 "declares that the general assembly occupies the whole field of regulation" of firearms and ammunition, "prohibiting local regulation."

Repeat: "Prohibiting local regulation." This bill and its House companion are sailing through committees.

Should that fail, however, there's this one: Senate Bill 2031, which would remove all grandfathered local ordinances and resolutions enacted before April 8, 1986, that relate to the prohibition or regulation of guns and ammunition by carry permit holders.

Senate Bill 1774, sponsored by our own Sen. Mike Bell, R-Riceville, would allow a law-abiding gun owner to carry a firearm in his or her own vehicle -- without a handgun permit.

And if all else fails, House Bill 1407 permits a person with a handgun permit to carry a firearm in any state, county or municipal park or other recreation area. It also deletes provisions from the state firearms law that allows local governments to prohibit carrying in parks by resolution or ordinance. This bill on Thursday was "placed behind the budget," according to the Tennessee General Assembly's legislation information website.

Other gun bills in Tennessee have made more news -- like Sen. Mae Beavers' version that would give the General Assembly rule over gun laws even to override federal laws. It would be funny, were it not so sad. The federal prohibition was nice theater, and it allowed these other pathetic excuses for legislation to slip along largely unnoticed.

These bills are introduced and advanced largely by Republicans, the brand in our politics that normally likes to pride itself for shouting "local rule" to the rooftops. One excellent example is Common Core. The GOPers are doing everything in their power to scuttle TN Core -- the Tennessee version of Common Core -- by trying to brand it as federal mind control. In fact, Common Core was developed by the National Governors Association. Tennessee state officials created a pilot roll-out of it that has been working wonderfully in the state for two years already.

On Thursday, Tennessee lawmakers expanded their power grab and approved a statewide "authorizer" for public charter schools that would affect school systems that have schools falling into the state's bottom 5 percent.

The bill would allow the state Board of Education to approve charter school applications rejected by local school districts in Hamilton, Davidson, Knox, Shelby and Hardeman counties.

Now these "local rule" lawmakers want to prohibit cities and counties from deciding that Coolidge Park and Warner Park and your favorite public soccer field and softball field should be gun-free zones.

So much for local control.

And so much for lip service to law and order, violence reduction, and a kinder, gentler nation. Whatever happened to those Republican notions of civil decency and democracy?

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