Welcome to the wild, wild west

Welcome to the wild, wild west

April 13th, 2014 in Opinion Times

Gun tile

Gun tile

Photo by WRCB-TV Channel 3 /Times Free Press.

Put the guns down!

It was beginning to look last week as though Georgia might out-dumb Tennessee on the gun-carry foolishness, but oh no - the hillbillies in Nashville are catching up.

Like a speeding bullet, the Tennessee Senate fired off a 25-2 vote Tuesday to allow any Tennessean who can legally have a firearm - i.e. anyone who is not a felon or a minor - to carry a handgun openly with no need for any state-issued permit.

That's right. No permit. No background checks. No gun safety instruction. No $115 show-your-serious-about-being-law-abiding permit fee. Just get your gun and strap it on and go wherever you like.

The bill's sponsor, Tennessee Sen. Mae Beavers, R-Mt. Juliet, was pleased that her Open Carry Firearms Freedom Act passed.

"Requiring Tennesseans to pay for and obtain a permit to publicly carry a handgun in all forms, including openly and while in a motor vehicle - current Tennessee law - converts the right to carry a handgun into a privilege," Beavers said in a floor speech.

What about our privilege - let alone right - to be comfortable in a restaurant or bar? Oh, yeah, the gun-toter can't tote his gun when he's intoxicated so we should be safe, right? What's a waiter to do? Say, "Excuse me, sir, before I bring your drink I have to ask: Do you have a gun?"

And by the privilege vs. right logic, we should expect Sen. Beavers and the lawmakers who voted for this to be doing away with our driver's license law any day now. After all we all should have the right to drive without worrying about permits or testing or pesky training. And forget traffic lights. We shouldn't have to wait for the right to drive straight through the intersection.

Voting for this incredibly dangerous and ridiculous bill wasn't just the handiwork of some super right-wing, Middle Tennessee clatch of lawmakers. The yes votes included our own Sens. Bo Watson, R-Chattanooga; Todd Gardenhire, R-Chattanooga; Mike Bell, R-Riceville; Janice Bowling, R-Tullahoma; and Ken Yager, R-Harriman. What were you folks smoking?

The House version has been sitting in the chamber's budget subcommittee, but last week there still was some disagreement among lawmakers about whether it has enough votes to pass the panel. Given how quickly this shot through the Senate, no one should discount the campaign contribution clout of the National Rifle Association.

But, politics aside, let's be clear: This legislation essentially makes it perfectly legal to carry a gun anywhere. Church? Yep. Work? Yep. School grounds? Apparently. With no background checks.

What's not clear are all the unintended consequences. Do we think another Volkswagen or auto supplier will come to Tennessee if this becomes law? Remember - we already have the title of No. 1 state in violent crime.

So now let's talk about whipping up fear. Let's talk about feeling that if everyone else has a gun and you don't, you're so naked. Let's talk about a gun-maker's and gun-seller's dream come true. This is one the gun lobby has bought and paid for.

After the Sandy Hook school shooting, gun control lobbying expenditures jumped from almost nothing to about $1 million in 2012, according to the Sunlight Foundation. But gun rights lobbying expenditures, which had averaged about $5 million a year since the Columbine shooting in 1999, suddenly shot up to just under $10 million.

Now, there's your smoking gun.