published Thursday, January 17th, 2013

Tennessee officials had mixed reactions to Obama's speech

The Tennessee State Capitol in downtown Nashville.
The Tennessee State Capitol in downtown Nashville.
Photo by The Tennessean /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Republican Gov. Bill Haslam's spokesman, David Smith, said the governor is reviewing the president's proposals.'

"While we understand that some of the issues will go before Congress, this level of unilateral action on an issue this important is concerning," he said.

Democratic Party Chairman Chip Forrester applauded the proposals, saying Tennessee families "are confronted with more gun violence than citizens in almost every other state in the nation."

"Tennessee families know the consequences of doing nothing all too well," Forrester said. "In 2011, a policeman on duty in Chattanooga was shot and killed with an assault rifle that was purchased by an escaped felon a few days earlier at a gun show in Tennessee."

He referred to Jesse Mathews' murder of Chattanooga Police Sgt. Tim Chapin during a robbery attempt at a Brainerd pawnshop. Mathews had fled a Colorado halfway house and made his way to Chattanooga, where he traded three guns for an M-4 assault rifle at a local gun show.

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State Rep. Eric Watson, R-Cleveland, chairman of the House Criminal Justice Committee, said Obama's proposal is worrisome.

"We don't need to make it hard on law-abiding citizens," said Watson, a former captain in the Bradley County Sheriff's Office.

Criminals still will have access to weaponry, Watson said.

"As long as these guns are in existence and sales made through the black market, law-abiding citizens need to defend themselves."

Watson and other state Republican lawmakers have introduced their own proposals in the aftermath of the Connecticut school massacre.

Watson's bill allows schools to use private armed security services in addition to law enforcement, and to appoint school personnel, including teachers, to be armed. The educators would have to have a state-issued handgun carry permit.

They must undergo 40 hours of school resource office/law enforcement training as well as crisis management and hostile negotiation training.

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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