NASHVILLE - A bill letting Tennessee's 375,000 handgun-carry permit holders store firearms in vehicles parked on most public and private lots sailed through the state Senate Judiciary Committee this afternoon despite objections voiced by businesses.
The measure's next stop is the Senate floor.
Eight Judiciary Committee members, including Sen. Todd Gardenhire, R-Chattanooga, voted for the National Rifle Association-backed bill, sponsored by Republican Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey of Blountville. A lone Democrat, Sen. Ophelia Ford of Memphis, abstained.
Tennessee Chamber of Commerce and Industry Chairman Bill Ozier told lawmakers that large and smaller businesses continued to have concerns about the legislation, which failed last year, and what they consider government infringement on their private property rights.
"We have heard from several employers who note that the outcome of this legislation may well impact their decision either to locate new facilities in this state or expand existing operations," Ozier told Judiciary Committee members. "It's certainly more of a concern that you might otherwise think."
Volkswagen, which operates a plant in Chattanooga, was among large companies raising concerns about safety and the impact on the German company's property right when the bill came up last year.
Chattanooga is currently competing with Volkswagen's plant in Mexico for the possible assembly of a new sport utility vehicle.
Gun rights advocates the ability to carry a gun legally for self protection going to and from work is meaningless unless they can store the weapons in their vehicles.
Gardenhire said while businesses' concerns are "important, this is Tennessee."
He said the legislation became the No. 1 issue he heard about from voters during his Senate campaign last year.
The bill also affects K-12 schools, colleges and universities, hospitals and churches, critics say.
The Republican-controlled House is working on its own version.