published Tuesday, April 24th, 2012

Gun bill fails to get to Tennessee Senate floor

  • photo
    Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris works in his legislative office in Nashville, Tenn.
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

NASHVILLE -- A Democratic-led Senate effort to bring a controversial guns-in-parking lots bill directly to the Republican-controlled chamber's floor failed Monday night.

Senate Minority Leader Jim Kyle, D-Memphis, vowed to push the motion again today when the Senate meets.

No similar effort was made in the House to push a stalled House version of the measure.

In the Senate, a bipartisan group of 17 senators, including five Republicans, voted for Kyle's motion to put the National Rifle Association-backed bill on the calendar of bills to be heard on the Senate floor today.

It needed two thirds of those voting -- 20 votes -- to pass.

Eight senators, including Republican Speaker Ron Ramsey, voted against the measure. Among them was one Democrat.

Five other Republicans abstained, which counted as a no vote, while three other Republicans, including the bill's sponsor, Sen. Mike Faulk, R-Kingsport, did not vote but were present.

The NRA bill has tied Republicans in knots all year due to a split among two GOP constituencies -- gun-rights advocates and businesses.

Gun-rights advocates argue the bill is necessary to protect the rights of gun owners and ensure safety by allowing them to store their weapons in their locked vehicles parked on public and private parking lots.

Businesses say it is a violation of their private property rights. Ramsey had hoped to keep the bill off the floor, and Faulk had apparently agreed to that.

"I recognize the unusual nature of the motion," Kyle said, noting Faulk's bill has passed relevant committees but has been in the Calendar Committee for about a month.

"There's a great deal of public interest on this bill, and I think we owe it to the public of Tennessee to go forward with the situation," Kyle said. "Quite frankly, to vote against this motion and to say you're for this bill would be clearly inconsistent."

Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, R-Collierville, said, "I don't think you can suspend a rule to run over the sponsor."

Ramsey said a yes vote would be "overruling Sen. Faulk's desire not to have it on the Senate floor."

Faulk himself did not speak.

It was unclear whether a similar attempt would be made on the House floor. The House bill is sponsored by Rep. Eddie Bass, D-Prospect. It is bottled up in the House Calendar and Rules Committee.

The Associated Press reported House Republicans met behind closed doors and overwhelmingly opposed holding a floor vote on Bass' bill.

Republican Gov. Bill Haslam, Ramsey and House Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville, have said the NRA's bill is too broad because it doesn't allow large employers to restrict guns on their property.

The measure also would allow employees, students and others to keep weapons in their vehicles at K-12 schools and colleges and universities.

Last week, the NRA sent House members a letter saying that it would grade lawmakers "more heavily" who voted to put the measure on the floor than it would if they voted against it once it was there.

Among those voting to bring the bill to the floor was Sen. Mike Bell, R-Riceville. Senate Speaker Pro Tempore Bo Watson, R-Hixson, voted no while Sens. Andy Berke, D-Chattanooga, and Eric Stewart, D-Belvidere, voted in favor.

Sen. Ken Yager, R-Harriman, abstained.

Contact staff writer Andy Sher at asher@timesfreepress.com or 615-255-0550.

about Andy Sher...

Andy Sher is a Nashville-based staff writer covering Tennessee state government and politics for the Times Free Press. A Washington correspondent from 1999-2005 for the Times Free Press, Andy previously headed up state Capitol coverage for The Chattanooga Times, worked as a state Capitol reporter for The Nashville Banner and was a contributor to The Tennessee Journal, among other publications. Andy worked for 17 years at The Chattanooga Times covering police, health care, county government, ...

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