Months after the National Rifle Association took down a Republican legislator for standing in the way of a key gun bill, the state legislature has delivered the NRA’s bill to the governor for his approval.
Gov. Bill Haslam was concerned early on about the parameters of the legislation and was particularly concerned about allowing guns on college campuses, but a spokesman told The City Paper the governor will probably sign the measure into law.
"The governor will review this bill, like he does all bills, when it comes to his desk, but he will likely sign it," said Dave Smith, the governor's spokesman.
The House delivered a 72-22 vote for legislation allowing permitted gun owners to stow firearms in their vehicles parked in public and private lots. The Senate OK’d the bill on a 28-5 vote earlier this month.
The measure, first pitched by gun-rights advocates in earnest last year, would allow gun owners to presumably protect themselves on their commutes by allowing them to store the weapon in their locked vehicle.
In a nod to the business community, the bill wouldn’t restrict business owners from firing employees who violate company policies that ban workers from keeping a gun in their car parked on work property. Legislative leaders like Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, who sponsored the legislation in the Senate, has said he hopes business owners wouldn’t resort to that practice, but as a right to work state, companies can fire anyone any time.
The saga began last year when the NRA and the Tennessee Firearms Association became frustrated over lack of movement on similar legislation last year. The GOP eventually decided to give the legislation up with promises to study it over the summer and pick it up again next year.
In retaliation, gun rights advocates spent more than $100,000 to help defeat GOP Caucus Leader Debra Maggart, a Hendersonville Republican, in the August primary.
In a pep talk with fellow Republicans shortly before the vote, House Speaker Beth Harwell apologized to members for what they have gone through for this bill and told lawmakers to vote their conscience.
“The less you say the better,” she told her 70-member caucus. “Just stay quiet and vote your conscience.”
The Republican-led chamber shot down a dozen attempts by Democrats to rewrite or edit the bill to ban guns in parking lots of correctional facilities, unemployment offices, schools and long-term parking lots. Democrats also suggested changing the bill to ban employers from firing employees for storing a gun in the parking lot.