In the middle of the debate over the hotly contested guns-in-trunks legislation, Rep. Joe Carr was heading to a Franklin fundraiser to boost his congressional campaign.
Shortly before the final vote on the bill, Carr was excused for the day and left for a gathering at a country club of what he calls “close personal friends” supporting his bid for Congress.
“I made a calculated decision based on the votes that were necessary for passage,” Carr told The City Paper about his decision to leave before casting his vote on the controversial bill. “I don’t think it was an unreasonable choice that I made. Not unreasonable at all.”
He missed more than half the votes — including the final vote — on the guns-in-trunks bill that makes it legal for handgun carry permit holders to store their gun in their locked car in parking lots, including those of their employer.
The legislation was an outgrowth of last year’s messy fight between Republicans and gun rights advocates. When the GOP-controlled legislature decided to pass on similar legislation last year, the gun lobby funneled more than $100,000 into a key primary race and took out a top member of Republican membership, then hinted they would challenge more lawmakers in future primaries.
“I did not cast a vote on the final bill because I was not present, because I had left the chamber as a result of this prior commitment,” he said, adding he was confident the legislation would pass without him. “I think I made the right decision.”
Carr would not confirm the event for him on Thursday, Feb. 28, at Old Natchez Country Club in Franklin that morning was a fundraiser or how much money he raised. He said the gathering was “organized by some people who are asking me to take part in a 4th Congressional race.”
A source that wished not to be identified indicated the event was a political fundraiser for Carr’s congressional prospects.
Carr’s vote was missing on more than a half dozen amendments on the legislation ranging from protecting employees from being fired for storing their gun on company parking lots to banning weapons from lots outside schools, prisons, mental health facilities and unemployment offices. He said he was torn on some of those amendments.
Carr, a Lascassas Republican, is hoping to succeed GOP Congressman Scott DesJarlias in the 2014 election. Carr is in a crowded field eyeing that 4th Congressional District seat. State Sen. Jim Tracy (R-Shelbyville), and Rep. Kevin Brooks (R-Cleveland) are also preparing bids in the race.
The House ultimately approved the measure 72-22 almost three weeks after the Senate OK’d it on a 28-5 vote. Gov. Bill Haslam, who was uncertain about the bill, has said he is likely to sign the legislation into law. He has until the end of next week to take action on the bill.
Carr, a Second Amendment advocate, is pitching his own gun legislation next week. His bill attempts to restrict enforcement of newly enacted federal restrictions on firearms, firearm accessories and ammunition in the wake of the national debate about gun control.