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The Tennessee State Capitol in downtown Nashville.
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NASHVILLE - Despite objections from businesses and colleges, the House Consumer and Employee Affairs Committee today approved two bills that allow Tennesseans with handgun-carry permits to store their weapons in locked vehicles parked on most private parking lots as well as public lots, including schools and college campuses.

Committee members approved the two National Rifle Association-drafted bills on voice votes, moving them to the Calendar and Rules Committee, the last stop before they go to the floor.

One bill allows employees and in many cases visitors with gun permits prevents to store their weapons out of sight in their locked vehicles.

The second bill prevents employers from discriminating against permit holders.

University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Chancellor Roger Brown spoke against the bill.

"We need to have safety and security on our campuses above all else," Brown said after the vote. "Campuses are a very open environment. Therefore not just students but neighbors in our communities need to be kept free of gun violence. We can't afford the risk of having any more guns in our environment."

Business groups argued gun-rights groups were violating their property rights. Volkswagen Chattanooga has previously testified against the bill and the company's Chattanooga CEO and chairman, Frank Fischer, told the Associated Press Monday that "we would not welcome people being able to carry weapons on factory grounds, probably just as little as the state House or Senate would like people to enter their building armed."

NRA lobbyist Darren LaSorte argued in committee that gun owners are not "second-class citizens."

Sam Cooper, a FedEx employee based in Memphis, said it is an issue of personal safety for him to be able to store his weapon in his vehicle when traveling to and from work.

"Please," Cooper said. "I'd like to defend myself and go home alive to my wife."

The bill, which has been bottled up for most of the session in the House, faces problems in the Senate where Speaker Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, has expressed reservations over how far the measure goes.

Read more in tomorrow's Times Free Press.