The National Rifle Association obviously is steamed that Tennessee's Republican governor and GOP-dominated Legislature had the audacity earlier this year to reject their strenuous lobbying effort to pass another gun-rights law - this time, a law allowing employees to bring their loaded handguns to work and leave them locked in their car on employer-owned parking lots. So to intimidate and pressure state lawmakers to kneel before the extremist NRA guns-everywhere-all-the-time agenda before the August primaries and the general election in November, the NRA has issued a pointed survey to legislative candidates.
Its key bald-face question of them is this: "As a legislator, would you follow the demands of party leadership even if they run contrary to the NRA's legislative agenda?"
So there it is: the NRA's single-issue dictate to our state lawmakers: Who and what are you for: The values of all Tennesseans to fair and reasonable legislation in behalf of the broader public good and the state's long term health and prosperity? Or the NRA's notion that legislators should be the lackeys of the narrow-minded NRA's no-holds-barred agenda and its master lobbyists?
Most Tennesseans surely would prefer that lawmakers observe the responsibility in some cases to compromise for their broader good. Few, including most who also believe in 2nd Amendment gun rights, likely would prefer that lawmakers blindly kowtow to the NRA's obsessive altar of extreme gun-rights.
It's clear, however, that if lawmakers fail to answer the survey as the NRA wants, it will unleash its lobbying clout against them.
House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga, gave the NRA's attempted diktat a more superficial, but equally apt, political twist. "Sounds like they were asking (legislators), 'Will you do what we tell you to do, instead of sticking by leadership?'"
There are several other sides to the guns-in-parking lots issue, to be sure. Many of the state's largest employers joined public school and university heads in reasonable opposition to the parking lots intrusion. They rightly value their responsibility for employee and public safety, and their need to secure their private property rights.
Their fears of the NRA proposal are well founded. Americans are all too aware of this nation's history of angry, deranged employees bringing guns into their places of work to shoot and kill people who have somehow invoked their anger. Allowing employees to regularly bring guns onto their parking lots would only increase the odds of such killings.
Gun owners, especially those who have obtained permits to carry handguns into public venues (now including bars, restaurants and parks in Tennessee), may argue that they are more responsible than other gun owners. They may also argue that the guns-in-parking lots proposal essentially negates their right to commute armed, and also that they could carry guns in their cars without informing their employers.
If that's the case, the contest of rights should go in favor of employers. They are responsible and liable for the safety of all their employees in their places of work, not just the minority of those with gun-carry permits. Beyond that is the broader public interest in keeping the NRA's vigilante orientation from becoming the public standard. It's agenda already has pushed far beyond basic 2nd Amendment rights to self-defense in one's home. The Legislature shouldn't be pressured by NRA extremists to broaden the plague of guns.