Get Guns Out of Parking Lots

Let’s protect Second Amendment, but what about the First?

You’ve heard a lot about the “guns in bars” bill in the General Assembly, though it might more accurately be described as the “get guns out of parking lots” bill.

Rather than have an omnibus gun bill this session, legislators divided the bill up into a half-dozen parts, thus more sponsors, more pro-gun votes, more opportunities for campaign brochures. Also more coverage—as each bill moved through committee it often seemed as if the Legislature only had gun bills this year.

The intent of the original bill, and the common theme of all its parts, is that gun permit holders who “carry” are often running into situations where they have the gun, but it’s not allowed. Or they’re in places where they didn’t know it was illegal to carry. If your usual practice is to treat a gun like a pocket watch, you often forget you are carrying it around—until you get some place that’s prohibited.

You and the wife go down to your favorite franchise fern bar for an early-bird special and you get to the door and realize you are still carrying the old Kel-Tec in your shorts. Then you have to go fish it out and leave it in the car. Or you’re a female real estate agent who carries a Glock in your purse because you spend your day meeting strangers in empty houses. You meet a client down at Copper Cellar for lunch and you realize you have the Glock in your purse. So you have to leave it in the car.

So all these gun bills have one thing in common. You can carry any place you go. If the powers that be don’t want you to carry, they can put up a sign. There is no requirement that any restaurant that sells alcohol allow gun permit holders to bring their weapon inside. Just put up a sign that prohibits guns. But the restaurant owners are afraid they will make permit holders angry, so they don’t want to have to make the decision. As to the idea of tush-hog bars becoming more dangerous, I would suggest that Tennessee history reveals that guns in these bars are not uncommon—and they aren’t the people who bother to get training and obtain a gun carry permit.

These bills turn present law on its head. Rather than a prohibition unless specifically allowed, there is a presumption that carrying is allowed unless it is prohibited.

The reason the Legislature has responded with alacrity this session is because there are 220,000 gun permit holders in Tennessee. I would guess, and lawmakers certainly believe, that 99 percent of them vote. It is also the first session since permits were created in which the House Speaker is not Jimmy Naifeh. Naifeh (who is a permit holder) used to put these gun bills in a subcommittee where they were quietly killed.

I don’t have a gun permit for a couple of reasons. My press card and my gun permit are both covered by a copy of the Constitution. Also, I hate to carry a gun; it ruins the line of my skin-tight blue jeans.

At this writing the House is poised to bring to the floor and pass a bill that will prohibit the release of gun permit holders’ names. Having the list available has been a good public service. The Memphis Commercial Appeal did some good stories identifying people who had permits who shouldn’t have been able to get them. It is a good check and balance on the permit system.

But remember the 220,000 permit holders (and their families) who vote. They are really angry about the CA putting the list on the Internet.

Gun permit holders ought to be happy with all the legislation this year on their behalf. I would ask legislators (if you haven’t already passed it) to amend the secrecy bill to simply say no list can contain Social Security numbers and home addresses of permit holders and leave it at that.

I’m all for the Second Amendment. Let’s do a little something for the First Amendment while we’re at it. And help make sure criminals aren’t getting permits.

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