published Friday, August 10th, 2012

Gerald McCormick says NRA won't dictate to Legislature

NASHVILLE — Republican lawmakers likely will take up Second Amendment issues in the General Assembly next year, but they won't be "dictated to" by the National Rifle Association, Chattanooga Rep. Gerald McCormick says.

McCormick, a Republican and House majority leader, said he anticipates the GOP-controlled legislature again will look at the NRA-backed "Safe Commute Act" but will do so on its own terms.

"No disrespect to [NRA lobbyist] Darren LaSorte, but he doesn't tell us what to do," he said.

The Safe Commute bill, dubbed the "guns in parking lots" bill, sought to guarantee workers and many visitors the ability to store weapons in vehicles on public and private parking lots, including schools, universities and churches, despite property owners' opposition.

After the measure failed to pass, the NRA and Tennessee Firearms Association went on the warpath in several GOP primaries, spending more than $100,000 to help topple House Republican Caucus Chairman Debra Maggart, of Hendersonville, whom they blamed for helping block the bill.

"Certainly we're willing to discuss any issue and agree with the NRA on just about everything," McCormick said. "But we're not going to be dictated to, and I don't think our caucus is either."

McCormick said he and other leaders still "hope to work with everyone and hope to balance out property rights with Second Amendment rights. I expect we'll pass something, just don't know what yet."

Major businesses vehemently opposed the bill.

During last session and again on Thursday, McCormick said he favored a law similar to a scaled-down Georgia law that allows gun owners to store weapons in locked vehicles on many parking lots but excludes lots with fences or other security features.

McCormick said his stance has not changed since his father-in-law, Winston Gant, was gunned down in a robbery last month at his Red Bank business.

"Certainly I don't want to use the family member issue on this to discuss [it]," McCormick said. "But it doesn't change my views. It proves that the criminals are going to carry guns whether they have a permit or not and people who aren't criminals should also be allowed to carry guns."

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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