Tennessee Firearms Association – 2015 Legislative Review
How did the Republican super majority and the Republican governor do? About as expected knowing that the Republican caucuses are allowing themselves to be controlled by an oligarchy of progressives. For example, they were given the chance to enact Constitutional Carry, permitless open carry, repeal vague state laws, and to enact legislation effectively nullifying federal laws, regulations and orders by prohibiting state law enforcement from using state funds to implement these federal laws. The legislature instead collectively stopped those bills even though Bill Haslam made a campaign promise to sign constitutional carry legislation ( www.tennesseefirearms.com/haslam).
In addition, the Republican super majorities in both Houses have tolerated leadership antics that have effectively disenfranchised most Tennesseans. They have done this by making it very difficult for all Tennesseans to have their individual legislators debate and vote on these issues on the respective floors. Rather, these bills are being micromanaged, amended, or killed by legislature leadership or their minions in committees and subcommittees which are apparently engaging in wholesale shenanigans such as secret pre-meetings, misleading fiscal notes, and intentional falsification of official voting records.
On the Tennessee Firearms Association’s top bills, this is what happened:
Constitutional Carry was introduced this year and carried by Sen. Mae Beavers and Rep. Rick Womick. Both of these legislators deserve resounding applause for taking the lead on bringing constitutional carry to Tennessee. However, the legislation was stopped in a House Civil Practices subcommittee when two of Beth Harwell’s hand-picked “leaders” – Jim Coley and Jon Lunberg – voice voted to kill the bills with the Democrats (Sherry Jones and Bill Beck) and then changed their official voting records to “present not voting.” Jim Coley explained to TNReport that he intentionally changed how his vote was recorded because he didn’t want his constituents to draw the conclusion that he’s “not in favor of firearms” which is exactly what his real voting should reflect.
Fixing Employee Safe Commute. This bill was messed up in 2013 and 2014 by Ron Ramsey and leadership when employee protections were intentionally excluded from the legislation. This year, the leadership apparently cut yet another deal with Big Business as it finally agreed to add language which appears to protect employees from being terminated if the employee has a handgun permit and stores a firearm in a personal vehicle while at work. The 2015 law adds back the “wrongful termination” remedy that TFA has pursued for almost a decade now – well almost. The problem is that the 2015 law’s protection is only available if the employee can prove in court that the “sole” reason for being fired or other adverse employment action was the fact that the employer learned the permit holder had a legally possessed firearm in her car in the parking lot.
Repeal of local regulation over parks. That bill passed but it is just more evidence of legislative leadership bowing to the demands of local government. The bill, as finally enacted, failed to deal with the “school grounds” issue which allows any park (or any property including your personal home) to be classified as a “school ground” for 2nd Amendment purposes if the school used or is using the property. The result, if you are a permit holder and you legally go into a park you might be charged with a felony for doing so if you “knew or should have known” that a school was using the park for any reason. The parks bill that passed is so unclear with respect to how it will be applied – even according to Bill Haslam – that it may be unconstitutionally vague. The Tennessean reports that local governments in Nashville and Memphis are already identifying numerous believed holes in the bill and openly discussing their options to continue to ban firearms in public parks whenever and however possible.
Status of some of the other bills TFA tracked:
HB0139 by Gilmore/SB0495 by Kyle creates a Class E felony for someone who intentionally possesses a firearm that the person knows or should have known was stolen. This bill was killed off in the House Civil Justice subcommittee.
HB1094 by T. Hill/SB1008 by Crowe permitting a Constable with law enforcement powers to carry a firearm at all times and at all places that a law enforcement officer is permitted to carry. Passed the House 92-1 and referred to Senate Calendar Committee 7-0 for floor vote. Dead for the year.
HB0596 by Parkinson/SB1076 by Harris creates a Class E felony for an individual convicted for the unlawful sale, gift, or loan of a firearm to a minor or intoxicated person. Failed in Senate Judiciary and set for House Finance subcommittee for April 15. Dead for the year.
HB0683 by VanHuss/SB0633 by Bailey prohibits schools or LEA’s from asking students or employees about gun ownership and prohibits disciplinary action based upon same. Signed by Governor.
HB0994 by Todd/SB1058 by Green creates a cause of action for an employee who has a handgun permit and is terminated as a result of having a firearm in his/her vehicle in the Employer parking lot. Signed by Governor. There is almost no way for an employee to prove this. In a “Right to Work” state, the chances of this statute ever being called upon as a defense for a job termination is practically zero. TFA supported this concept but the actual law now sets a standard so high that it provides practically no protection.
HB0934 by Matheny/SB0874 by Niceley allows exploding targets such as Tannerite. Passed House 85-7 and Senate 30-1.
HB0136 by Faison/SB0181 by Bell creates an exception to the offense of possession of a machine gun, short-barreled rifle or shotgun, or silencer if the person possessing was in compliance with the National Firearms Act when possessing. Signed by the Governor. Tennessee law already provided a defense to these charges and this bill converted the “defense” to an “exception” presumably to avoid the risk of even being charged. One problem with the bill is it is limited to some but not all categories of NFA regulated items so other items like “AOWs” or “destructive devices” (which is how some non-sporting shotguns are classified) are not covered by this “exception.” This omission was brought to the attention of both sponsors in writing by TFA but they did not amend the bill and one may assume that they knowingly wanted to allow citizens owning other classes of NFA items to be charged and have to prove in a criminal court that the items were legally registered to them by the ATF.
HB0173 by Moody/SB0149 by Green removes the provision making it illegal to possess a firearm on any property “used” by a school. Killed off in House Civil Justice subcommittee. Passed Senate 26-5. The House subcommittee that heard it had 4 Republicans and 2 Democrats. The House subcommittee did not even “second” the motion on the bill and thus it never even had a vote. The subcommittee in question was chaired by Rep. Jim Coley who participated in the shenanigans involving falsification of his own voting record this year. This bill is dead for the year. The defeat of this measure was one of the ten worst outcomes of 2015.
HB0202 by Keisling/SB0168 by Bowling extends liability for damages to public and private employers who take an adverse action against an employee who lawfully stores a firearm in his/her vehicle. Killed off in House Civil Justice subcommittee.
HB0206 by Rogers/SB0312 by Green adds certain exceptions to the definitions of “explosive weapon” and “restricted firearm ammunition” to permit possession or use of “blank” ammunition and certain practice rounds. This bill was another technical fix to allow people who have certain kinds of weapons (such as military re-enactors or collectors) to have and use blanks and dummy rounds that are approved by the ATF for exhibitions. Killed off in House Civil Justice subcommittee.
HB0240 by Reedy/SB0207 by Niceley would allow a gun dealer to complete a firearms transaction with a carry permit holder without benefit of another background check. Federal law has allowed this for almost 2 decades but for unexplained reasons (most likely the lost to TBI of the $10 per transaction “TICS tax”) this bill was killed. Killed off in House Civil Justice subcommittee.
HB0274 by Goins/SB0314 by Hensley allows guns in parks. Set aside for Harrison bill, HB0995. This was a much better bill but we are told that Beth Harwell wanted Harrison (who killed the open carry law in 2014) to get the credit for a “gun bill.”
HB0320 by Matheny/SB0628 by Bailey allows handgun carry permit holders to carry firearms in the same manner as off-duty law enforcement officers. Killed off in House Civil Justice subcommittee.
HB0481 by Matheny/SB0070 by Kelsey allows a person to transport and store a firearm in a car parked on school property. Killed off in House Civil Justice subcommittee.
HB0535 by Womick/SB0780 – Constitutional Carry. Killed off in House Civil Justice subcommittee. The defeat of this measure was one of the ten worst outcomes of 2015.
For inquiring minds, House Civil Justice Subcommittee consists of Jim Coley (R), Chairman; Jon Lundberg (R), Bill Beck (D), Sherry Jones (D), Leigh Wilburn (R), and Mike Carter (R).
HB0682 by VanHuss/SB0774 by Beavers rewrites minimum sign requirements for prohibiting firearms in certain places. Passed House on first consideration. Killed off in Senate Judiciary committee.
HB0995 by Harrison/SB1170 by Stevens. This bill would change the current statute allowing local municipalities to “opt out” of the provision allowing concealed-carry permit holders to carry their weapons in parks. Sen. Jeff Yarbro offered an amendment to allow permit holders to carry in the Capitol which was overwhelming approved in the Senate. The Senate sent the bill to the House with the Capitol amendment on it. The House did not concur with that Amendment. Charles Sargent offered an amendment that would prevent anyone from possessing a mock firearm (such as a squirt gun) within 150′ of a school. Conference legislation signed by the Governor. There are a lot of problems with this bill mainly relating to the “morphing” of parks and other properties into being classified as “school grounds” and the consequence of Class E felony charges. It perhaps would have been better to have no bill than this one and to fix it right in 2016. This bill was championed by a national organization as good legislation.
HB0996 by Holsclaw/SB1170 by Stevens, another guns in parks bill that was referred to House Civil Justice Subcommittee where it was stopped.
HB1046 by Lamberth/SB1103 by Overbey establishes procedures for disposition of confiscated firearms, whether sold or destroyed. Passed House 95-0, Senate 30-0.
HB1255 by Sargent/SB1215 by Johnson requires chief law enforcement officer in a municipality to certify the transfer or making of a firearm. Signed by Governor.
HB1304 by Littleton/SB0866 by Kelsey establishes procedures for reinstatement of firearm disabilities involving people with mental health disabilities. Passed Senate 30-0, House 63-26.
HB1316 by Love/SB1245 by Dickerson establishes as a Class A misdemeanor for openly carrying within 250’ of a school. Killed off in House Civil Justice subcommittee.
HB1341 by Weaver/SB1110 by Briggs prohibits the sate from using any assets to enforce federal gun laws or regulations. TFA helped write the original bill and supported it. However, it was amended in the House to a format that has effectively rendered the bill ineffective. The House amendment only prohibits the expenditure of state funds or resource to enforce federal 2nd Amendment related laws, regulations or orders “if the expenditure of public funds would result in the violation of Tennessee statutory or common law or the Constitution of Tennessee.” Thus, the bill does nothing unless another law or a court determines that the federal action violates another provision of Tennessee law. Passed Senate 29-1, House 74-20.