NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Lawmakers have tried before to guarantee that workers can keep firearms in their cars at work. A new twist to this year's attempt is that it would affect both the public and private sector, meaning it would apply to everyone from college faculty to airport workers.
The measure sponsored by Republican Sen. Mike Faulk of Kingsport and Democratic Rep. Eddie Bass of Prospect is scheduled for a vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday. Neither lawmaker returned phone messages seeking comment on Friday.
In the past, Republican Gov. Bill Haslam has voiced support for requiring businesses to allow guns in parking lots. But spokesman David Smith said in an email that the administration has "concerns with the breadth" of the latest version.
While the legislative website describes the measure as applying to "individuals licensed to carry," the bill itself makes no reference to state-issued handgun carry permits, meaning it could apply to any gun owner in the state.
Supporters of the guns in parking lots measure include the Tennessee Firearms Association, which has urged its members to lean on lawmakers not to allow the "employee safe commute" bill to be pushed aside.
Previous attempts to allow guns on college campuses have drawn heavy resistance from the state's higher education system, while the guns in parking lots measure has been vehemently opposed by business interests.
"I find it hard to understand how people who are strong supporters of the Second Amendment can so easily throw away the property rights of every other individual," said Deb Woolley, president of the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce.
"This is about taking away your right and my right as a property owner to say you can't bring a gun on my property," she said.
That message appears to resonate with Republican leaders in the House, who would prefer punt the issue until after the elections this fall.
"It's not a priority for me this session," said House Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville. "As we've said all along, our priority is to ensure that we're the most business-friendly state in this union."
House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga, noted that the House sponsor of the bill is a Democrat, and suggested that the bill may be a ploy to try to get Republicans to vote against a gun rights bill in an election year.
"If the Democrats in the House want to push this issue, we'll deal with it and vote on it," he said.
House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner of Nashville said he opposes the bill, and laughed off the implication that Bass' bill is meant to embarrass Republicans.
"If he's doing it for that reason, I'm for it," Turner said. "But I'm not sure that's why he's doing it."
Turner said his caucus has yet to take a position on the measure, but that many of his colleagues share his concerns.
"We're not anti-gun or anything, but we just don't think people should have a right to keep them in parking lots," he said. "We're a little concerned about people shooting co-workers."
Woolley, the chamber president, called the proposal "of those issues that's a solution without a problem right now," because people with handgun carry permits can already bring their weapons anywhere that hasn't specifically been posted with a gun ban.
Besides, Woolley said, she doesn't know of any business in the state that makes it "a condition of your employment where you have to park your car."
Read SB3002 at: http://capitol.tn.gov
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