The buying of the Tennessee General Assembly -- especially the House of the Representatives -- might as well have been a billboard this year in the final days of the legislative session.
In one of its final acts this year, the state House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved a resolution designating the Barrett M82, a high-powered sniper rifle, the "official rifle of the state of Tennessee."
Barrett, the self-described world leader in large-caliber rifle design and manufacturing, is headquartered in Murfreesboro, Tenn.
The resolution didn't stick (this time) because the Senate didn't take it up. But among its handful of opponents in the House was Rep. Antonio Parkinson, D-Memphis, who said: "If we start endorsing one brand over another brand, I think that's counter to us being a business-friendly state."
After his fellow representatives voted anyway to name the Barrett M82 the state gun, Parkinson countered the blatant state gun commercialism with a touch of irony. He introduced resolutions naming Memphis-based FedEx as the official carrier of the state of Tennessee and AutoZone as the official auto parts supplier. He said he'll ask lawmakers to vote on those suggestions next year.
It could be interesting. Think what confusion Tennessee can create with a state M82 sniper rifle on one corner of our symbols page, the Bible on the other (the Senate killed that one, too, for now), and the world's best-recognized abused animal -- the big-lick Tennessee Walking horse -- smack in the middle.
Guns are always a hot topic in Tennessee. In addition to our lawmakers' recently thumbing their noses at local rule and reversing city and county bans of guns in local public parks and near schools, the NRA/Tennessee General Assembly this year also decided it knows best what local police departments should do with confiscated and abandoned guns: Put them back out on the streets.
According to the General Assembly's legislation website, a bill passed that requires police and sheriffs' departments to auction seized and confiscated guns and turn most of the money over to the municipality's general fund.
Now such guns are usually either kept under lock and key or sold to provide money for the cash-strapped police departments.
But the legislature -- and the NRA which was the driving force of the measure -- think they know better. They also are building on another NRA-backed bill passed in 2010 that forbade police departments from destroying seized guns.
Convenient, isn't it? First you tell police departments they can't destroy guns, then you require them to sell those guns so they will go right back out on the streets.
Chattanooga Police Chief Fred Fletcher summed it up quite well.
"My officers placed themselves in harm's way and used great restraint to take those firearms off the street," he said. "I'm not enthusiastic about returning guns to the same streets where my officers might have to face them again."
What's the reasoning and result of all this gun madness?
The NRA's well-planned assault on peace has been going on now for several years and it all comes down to survival. NRA's survival, that is.
Listen to any of their talking points, and you'll get the message: You need guns to protect yourself. The more guns in the most places, the better. And NRA needs the continued and growing support of gunmakers -- like Barrett.
Well, in the same week these bills were being debated or passed, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation reported that homicides across our state increased by nearly 10 percent in 2014. Of the 375 homicides, 244 came at the end of a gun. Another 29,791 aggravated assaults happened in our state, and of those, 8,788 were shootings.
Some 228 homicide victims (the entire state's population is just over 6.5 million) were slain at home, and domestic violence offenses continued to make up 51 percent of all crimes against people.
But there's always tomorrow, and the more guns, the merrier.