Pro-gun, pro-business GOP stance leads to difficult position with latest gun bill

Monday, March 19, 2012 at 1:27am

With Tennessee Republicans now enjoying the second year of their ascendency, gleeful business leaders expected to spend this legislative session pushing through changes in state law to make their lives easier and less expensive. Among other pro-business goals, they hoped to stamp out living-wage laws once and for all and to make it harder for laid-off workers to collect unemployment checks.

Instead, they’ve been forced unexpectedly into a prolonged fight to fend off the latest attempt to expand Second Amendment rights in Tennessee — legislation to let employees tote any legally possessed firearm into their company parking lots and then leave the guns locked in their cars during their workday. Businesses say the bill tramples their private property rights and threatens the safety of all their employees.

“Now this seems to be at the top of their list, as opposed to fighting labor unions, living wage, fighting workers compensation issues,” Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey mused at one of his press availabilities this month.

A who’s who of the Tennessee business world has paraded to the Capitol to try to persuade lawmakers to buck the National Rifle Association, which is demanding passage of what’s become known as the guns-in-parking-lots bill. It’s put legislators, particularly Republicans, in a no-win political position — faced with upsetting one or the other of their strongest and most-feared constituencies.

Among those testifying before the legislative committees against the bill have been representatives from FedEx, Volkswagen and Bridgestone — three of the largest employers in the state. They raised the specter of disgruntled or deranged employees or customers grabbing their guns out of their cars and going on shooting sprees.

All the state’s business associations have lined up in opposition too, including Nashville’s Chamber of Commerce and the hotel and restaurant industries. Also against the bill are the Farm Bureau and many of the state’s hospitals and universities, including Belmont and Vanderbilt.

“This is not an anti-gun position on the part of employers. It’s a pro-employer rights and a pro-property rights position,” said Bill Ozier, chairman of the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce and Industry. “The employer has the right to set rules in the interest of the safety of their other employees.”

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has rated Tennessee the most business-friendly state in the nation, Ozier told the Senate Commerce Committee, but he warned the guns-in-parking-lots bill would hurt that image.

“We’re talking about a lot of jobs here, and a lot of jobs come to Tennessee because of that business-friendly environment,” he said. “If we start to erode that, it’s going to cost Tennesseans jobs in the future.”

Belmont president Bob Fisher said, “In 12 years, I know of no shots ever fired on our campus, and I want to keep it that way. … I simply cannot logically connect how it could be any safer with untrained students or untrained employees having easy access to firearms on our private property.”

A companion bill, which purports to stamp out discrimination against gun owners, bars businesses from forcing workers to tell whether they own or use firearms. It also bans employers from basing hiring, firing or benefits on gun ownership or use, putting gun owners on the same level in state law as protected classes of people such as the disabled.

House leaders tried to stop this bill from even coming up this session for fear it would paint Republicans as extremists and remind voters of last year’s arrest of GOP Rep. Curry Todd on drunken driving and illegal gun possession charges. Todd was the chief sponsor of the state law allowing guns into bars.

Majority Leader Gerald McCormick has proposed a compromise in which workers could bring firearms into store parking lots and other public lots but not fenced employee-only lots. It covers only workers with state-issued handgun carry permits.

But the NRA and Tennessee Firearms Association have denounced that bill and threatened political reprisals against moderate Republicans in the House, including McCormick, Speaker Beth Harwell and GOP Caucus chair Debra Maggart. The Firearms Association has branded them the “axis of evil” and claimed they are “dancing like puppets in the financial purse strings of Big Business.”

Gun proponents contend they need to take guns into company parking lots to protect themselves against criminals as they go to and from work. They call their bill “the Employee Safe Commute Act.” In a letter to legislative leadership, the NRA made parking lots sound like war zones.

“Publicly accessible parking lots aren’t safe havens. Headlines remind us that muggings, robberies, assaults, rapes and even murders happen in these parking lots. That’s why it is essential for law-abiding Tennesseans to have a means of defending themselves and their loved ones should the need arise.”

Testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sam Cooper, a Memphis employee of Federal Express, said he’s afraid to drive to work without his gun. Around his workplace, he said, there are drug dealers and prostitutes.

“I see the hazards all around the clock,” he said. “Essentially what this bill would do would give me the ability to provide by my own protection to and from work. If you were at a facility that banned smoking, all tobacco products, does that mean you can’t keep a pack of cigarettes in your car? How far are we going to take this?”

Sen. Beverly Marrero, D-Memphis, scoffed at Cooper’s fears.

“I’m from Shelby County,” she told him. “I drive around in Memphis all the time at all hours. I don’t have a gun. Don’t carry one in my car. I feel relatively safe. It seems to me that gentlemen seem more afraid to drive around at night in Memphis than women.”

 

15 Comments on this post:

By: Loner on 3/19/12 at 4:46

Trouble in Paradise?

Seems like the nation's most business-friendly state - translation: the nation's most worker-unfriendly state - is having trouble serving two masters: the gun lobby and the business lobby. Looks like there may be a conflict of interest between these two potent special interests.

No doubt, whichever lobby pumps in more money will prevail in the end.

I think that employers have the right to inquire about the gun-loving aspects of their employees and they certainly have the right to control their employee parking lots.

Anyone who is too afraid to leave home without their gun should not be sitting in any legislature anywhere in the USA...in my humble opinion.

Legislators in places where we are spreading "democracy", like Iraq and Afghanistan, probably would be wise to pack heat at home and at work; but so far, that's not the case in the good old USA....not yet anyway....but we seem to be moving in that general direction.

Sadly, millions of Americans are scared, armed and ready to snap....thanks to the NRA and the Tea Party, some of our lawmakers fall into that category.

By: Loner on 3/19/12 at 5:05

Ever notice how many of these guys who snap and go berserk were "law-abiding gun owners"...until the moment they snapped? How many murderous shooters had clean records prior to their crimes? The NRA won't provide those kinds of statistics. There's a lot that the NRA does not like to talk about. It's time for the media to do some digging and expose the attractive lies and the ugly truths.

By: tpaine on 3/19/12 at 5:14

Here we go. Democrat/Socialist just can't stand the idea that we have a 2nd Amendment. That Government isn't God, but something to be feared. Our Founders knew that, but not Democrat/Socialist. They're smarter than everyone else and history doesn't apply to them.

By: Redbarron06 on 3/19/12 at 7:06

Amazing how some people believe that an employer has the right to invade and subdue Constitutional rights while still voicing the opinion that employers are required to provide services like health care and birth control to all employees. Wouldn't these same "property rights" also not extend to who the owner wanted on his property not just items on his property. If he has the right to ban guns shouldn't be also have the right to ban certain races, genders, or even sexual orientations? And let's not forget that my car is my property and is also covered as an extension of my home under Tennessee's castle doctrine. An employer telling me I can't have a gun in my car is no different than a landlord telling me I can't have a TV in my rental home.

And by the way Mr Woods, it's not about expanding rights, it's about restoring them.

By: ancienthighway on 3/19/12 at 8:08

"A companion bill, which purports to stamp out discrimination against gun owners, bars businesses from forcing workers to tell whether they own or use firearms. It also bans employers from basing hiring, firing or benefits on gun ownership or use, putting gun owners on the same level in state law as protected classes of people such as the disabled."

I don't recall ever seeing a question on a job application as to whether the potential employee owns a gun or not. Nor have I heard of gun owners being denied a job because they are gun owners. The NRA is just pumping garbage out as fast as they can. I can't wait to see the mandatory 20% discount available for the gun toting shoppers.

Don't get me wrong, I support the 2nd Amendment. But the rights of the gun owners shouldn't automatically trump the rights of property owners just because the gun and car are the gun owners property. It's not a case of "I have more rights concerned, so I win."

I am concerned about the NRA drafting and "selling" some of these more extreme and what I feel are absurd laws, elevating gun owners to a protected class for instance. That opens the door for gun owners to receive some kind of job preferential in order for quotas to be met, while at the same time saying quotas for other protected classes should be abolished. Then everyone starts lying on their job applications and subsequent court battles about whatever.

But, hey, Tennessee, Alabama, and Missouri are leading the way.

By: Moonglow1 on 3/19/12 at 8:28

Moonglow1: "Gleeful" business owners indeed!! Gleeful only when their interests (smashing workers rights) are being served.

Republicans fearful of being labeled "extremist?" Indeed they are extremist. They are also gutless creatures without a clear moral compass. They are afraid to stand for reason. They are afraid of the NRA. Our legislators are cowards. Cowering and afraid. Afraid of what?? Afraid they will not be re-elected. Afraid that the NRA will not support them for re-election. They are also afraid of the power of business. Checkmate-now what??

Your move cowards!!!

This is what happens when cretins get elected. Business will move out soon. They won't stand for such nonsense. Soon people will bail. What's left- the Extremist Republican Cretin Legislative Cowards!!

By: Moonglow1 on 3/19/12 at 8:29

Moonglow1: "Gleeful" business owners indeed!! Gleeful only when their interests (smashing workers rights) are being served.

Republicans fearful of being labeled "extremist?" Indeed they are extremist. They are also gutless creatures without a clear moral compass. They are afraid to stand for reason. They are afraid of the NRA. Our legislators are cowards. Cowering and afraid. Afraid of what?? Afraid they will not be re-elected. Afraid that the NRA will not support them for re-election. They are also afraid of the power of business. Checkmate-now what??

Your move cowards!!!

This is what happens when cretins get elected. Business will move out soon. They won't stand for such nonsense. Soon people will bail. What's left- the Extremist Republican Cretin Legislative Cowards!!

By: dva56 on 3/19/12 at 10:54

"Torn between two lovers, feeling like a fool
Loving you both is breaking all the rules" -- Mary Macgregor

I think I'll pop some popcorn and watch how this plays out.

By: yogiman on 3/19/12 at 11:23

I agree with you, Loner, it's time for the media to do some digging and expose the attractive lies and the ugly truths. But will you add Barack Obama's name on that list with the NRA?

By: millenboy on 3/19/12 at 1:03

It is a given that we have the right to keep and bear arms. It is not just a right to possess a weapon in the confines of ones own home. If I cannot leave that weapon in the car while visiting any business, the right is effectively moot. I would be limited to only having the weaopon while on the public highways.

The deranged employee scenario is a stalking horse. A trully deranged gunman will disregared carry permits, employer rules, or any other restriction.

Employers should not be allowed to restrict any of the freedoms in the Bill of Rights; Freedom of Speech, Religon, Assemblyy, or the Right to Bear Arms. All of these rights should be jealously defend by everyone equally.

One of the obstacles to the acceptance of the original draft constitution was its lack of a Bill of Rights. James Madison did not enumerate these rights casually. Each individual right was carefully considered before inclusion. All these enumerated rights stand equal with each other. To restrict any one right is to minimize and jeopardize the others.

By: millenboy on 3/19/12 at 1:04

It is a given that we have the right to keep and bear arms. It is not just a right to possess a weapon in the confines of ones own home. If I cannot leave that weapon in the car while visiting any business, the right is effectively moot. I would be limited to only having the weaopon while on the public highways.

The deranged employee scenario is a stalking horse. A trully deranged gunman will disregared carry permits, employer rules, or any other restriction.

Employers should not be allowed to restrict any of the freedoms in the Bill of Rights; Freedom of Speech, Religon, Assemblyy, or the Right to Bear Arms. All of these rights should be jealously defend(ed) by everyone equally.

One of the obstacles to the acceptance of the original draft constitution was its lack of a Bill of Rights. James Madison did not enumerate these rights casually. Each individual right was carefully considered before inclusion. All these enumerated rights stand equal with each other. To restrict any one right is to minimize and jeopardize the others.

By: dva56 on 3/19/12 at 1:47

@ millenbot, The bill of rights has to do with the government restricting individual rights. This law is about the government imposing it's will on private businesses and private property owners. Employers absolutely have the right to restrict free speech of employees among other rights. Just ask Hank Williams Jr. what happened with ESPN over comments he made about Obama. According to your argument I could put an Elect Ron Paul sign in your front yard and you couldn't do anything about it.

By: tenn.Big Dog on 3/19/12 at 7:05

Tenn. Big Dog :TO ALL BUSINESS PEOPLE FEARING AN EMPLOYEE GOING TO THEIR CAR AND GETTING A GUN: I SAY BULL CRAP. THE PAST HISTORY OF POSTAL EMPLOYEES AND OTHERS WHOM WENT OUT AND GOT GUNS AND CAME BACK AND SHOT UP THE PLACE IS CRAP.. I DON'T EVER REMEMBER IT HAPPENING THAT WAY. THEY HAVE ALWAYS GONE HOME OR TO A GUN STORE AND GOT THE GUNS AND CAME BACK.

IF YOU DON'T MISTREAT YOUR EMPLOYEES, THEY WOULDN'T HAVE A REASON TO NEED A GUN FOR USING ON YOU TO BEGIN WITH.

GROW UP AND OBEY THE CONSTITUTION OF THE UNITED STATES. THAT SAME EMPLOYEE JUST MIGHT STOP AN ASSAULT ON YOU OR ANOTHER EMPLOYEE.
HELL GET YOUR OWN GUN.

THIS STATEMENT MADE BY A RETIRED METRO NASHVILLE POLICE OFFICER...I HAVE MINE IN MY CAR AND ALWAYS WILL...IF YOU DISAGREE I DON'T CARE.

By: Redbarron06 on 3/20/12 at 6:14

@dva56,
The buisness owner should have the right to hire and fire who he wants but lets apply the same standard for every subject. He should have the choice to fire all women, blacks, Hispanics, Asians, or whites if he chooses. He should also have the ability to pay his employees a rate he decides not the govt. If he can staff his company by paying people 10 cents an hour why should he have to pay them more. He has rights as a business owner. It should also not be mandated that he provide certain benifits to his employees like health care. Let's also consider that if we are considering businesses as individuals with rights then they also have rights such as the ability to contribute to candidates they support. They should also have the right to ban unions from thier property.

By: Bellecat on 3/24/12 at 7:14

'The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has rated Tennessee the most business-friendly state in the nation."

This is a badge of dishonor that no state should want. Workers beware.

Employees being treated like garbage by the republicans should make every worker in Tennessee and America fighting mad. If you are a worker, it is in your interest to SEND EVERY REPUBLICAN HOME AT ELECTION TIME.

This includes the following republican goodies:
"With Tennessee Republicans now enjoying the second year of their ascendency, gleeful business leaders expected to spend this legislative session pushing through changes in state law to make their lives easier and less expensive. Among other pro-business goals, they hoped to stamp out living-wage laws once and for all and to make it harder for laid-off workers to collect unemployment checks."
Yes sir, making their lives easier and the workers harder. Proud of that are they.

What decent people would ever admit they are feeling "gleeful" about trying to stamp out living-wage laws? What decent people would try to make it harder for workers to collect their unemployment checks? Workers unwillingly laid off by these very people, by the way. Would that happen to be those decent republicans who work themselves to death for the workers who elected them as "their representatives" ?
" Decent" being the qualifier here.