It’s probably just a coincidence, but interesting nonetheless.
Heidi Keesling has been the longtime National Rifle Association lobbyist. Though based in Washington, she has been in charge of Tennessee lobbying efforts and has had great success under the new Republican majorities in the House and Senate. The Legislature has passed a batch of bills expanding gun rights the last three years.
But this year the gun lobbyists were told by Republican legislative leaders that the emphasis would be on reducing taxes, especially estate taxes and the sales tax on food. They didn’t want any gun-bill distractions from the lower-tax message Republicans will use in this year’s elections. They didn’t want any Republicans bringing a gun bill and they certainly didn’t want the bills being brought by the Democrats.
But the NRA went to state Rep. Eddie Bass, a Middle Tennessee Democrat and a former sheriff, who brought a bill to force employers to allow gun owners to keep guns in their locked vehicles in the parking lot. It is a divisive issue and it puts conservative Republicans in a bind between property rights and gun rights. The Republican legislative leaders have not been pleased.
Keesling is no longer the NRA lobbyist in Nashville. She has gone to work for the Justice Department in Washington. Another view is that Keesling had the job in Washington and didn’t mind burning bridges in Nashville.