NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Gov. Bill Haslam and Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey are among the prominent Republicans trying to put the brakes on a bill seeking to guarantee employees the right to store their firearms in vehicles parked at work.
The bill advanced to the full Senate last week. It would allow people with state-issued handgun carry permits to store their weapons in their cars.
The Judiciary Committee rejected efforts to exclude schools and colleges and added a provision to extend the measure to anyone over age 21 with a hunting license.
"That's a little bothersome to us to be honest with you," Haslam told reporters last week. "The hunting license is of particular concern to us."
The state's 350,000 handgun carry permit holders must undergo background checks and take safety courses. A hunting license carries no special requirements other than state residency and can be ordered online for a $27 fee.
Nearly 700,000 people have hunting licenses, though the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency doesn't keep track of how many of those are younger than 21.
Ramsey said the proposal as currently written goes too far.
"Expanding it to hunting licenses — even though I can see why they did that — but that's stuff that just doesn't need to be done," said Ramsey, R-Blountville. "It needs to be for gun carry permit holders only."
Ramsey and Haslam also called for the bill to give more leeway to businesses that don't want to allow guns on their property. Meanwhile proponents of the bill argue that the property rights arguments are equally strong for the owners of vehicles who want to store their guns in the trunks of their cars.
The measure is strongly opposed by business, higher education and law enforcement groups across the state.
House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner of Nashville noted the proposal follows a number of gun rights measures in past years, including state laws allowing permit holders to be armed in bars and restaurants that serve alcohol and in public parks.
"They just keep reaching," Turner said. "When they get something they have to put the goal out a little further. After this they're going to want you be able to carry your guns into work and put them into your locker, saying you don't want them stolen out of your car.
"And next thing you know, we'll be able to carry them in the cafeteria," he said.
The House version of the bill is up for a committee vote on Wednesday. A full Senate vote has yet to be scheduled.
Read SB3002 at http://capitol.tn.gov
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