Deal seen on Tennessee 'guns in parking lots' bill

Deal seen on Tennessee 'guns in parking lots' bill

February 23rd, 2012 by Andy Sher in News

The Tennessee State Capitol in downtown Nashville.

The Tennessee State Capitol in downtown Nashville.

Photo by The Tennessean /Times Free Press.

NASHVILLE - Gov. Bill Haslam said Wednesday he expects the General Assembly will pass a narrower version of a proposal to override employers' ability to stop their workers from storing guns in locked vehicles on company parking lots.

The Republican governor told reporters he was concerned about the two original bills brought by the National Rifle Association and hopes to broker an agreement.

"We're working through the specifics of what that might look like," Haslam said. "We're trying to balance the interests of business with those folks who would like to carry and to keep the gun locked in their car. My sense is there will be a bill that makes it through."

The bill would apply to all gun owners, not just Tennesseans with state-issued handgun-carry permits who undergo criminal background checks and required training.

"Essentially what this bill does is to allow a legally possessed firearm to be kept in your vehicle out of sight on private property," NRA lobbyist Heidi Keesling told a state Senate committee this week.

But critics say the bill also would apply to employees and parking lots maintained by schools, colleges and governments. Officials with businesses, hospitals and others also have expressed concern.

Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield said if that is the case, he has some concerns.

Littlefield, who was in Nashville on other matters, said there's a cost associated with people going armed everywhere.

"And I'm a little concerned, just as we're concerned about people bringing guns into City Hall or into a courthouse, which fortunately so far is something that can't be done."

The mayor said emotions can "run high" in cases such as disciplinary or personnel matters.

The two NRA-drafted bills were filed by Rep. Eddie Bass, D-Prospect, and Sen. Mike Faulk, R-Kingsport.

Bradley Jackson, who lobbies for the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce & Industry at the state Capitol, said "no other state in the United States of America has enacted bills that broad."

POLL: Should people keep guns in their cars at work?

The bills would include "day care [centers], hospitals ... landowners, your farm, whatever," he said, calling for a balance between property and gun rights.

"There are some areas that probably need to be acknowledged such as if it's a public parking area. It's always been vague."

Some House Republican leaders, including Majority Leader Gerald McCormick of Chattanooga, have sided with business and sought to put the issue on the back burner this year.

Gun-rights groups call the measure the "Employee Safe Commute Act" and say that without it, Tennessee handgun-carry law really doesn't guarantee permit holders to defend themselves going to and from work.

Republican Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey, a gun-rights champion, agrees, but he too wants to narrow the law. He wants to use a 2008 Georgia law as a model. It excludes parking lots that are fenced or have gates or guards.