March madness is a good thing when the NCAA basketball tournament kicks off, but when Tennessee politicians are madder than March hares, things can get a lot darker, quickly.
Last March, Tennessee’s wild hares tried to pass an anti-evolution bill. In March 1925, they came up with the Butler Act, which led to the famous Scopes “monkey trial.” This March, more anti-gay and pro-gun legislation looms.
Tennessee has become a national laughingstock, the constant foil of late-night comedians’ one-liners. There were only three Stooges and their pratfalls were intentional. But Tennessee seems to have an unlimited supply of stumbling, bumbling legislators who might be called the “Kings of Unintentional Comedy.” These Tennessee stumblebums include:
Sen. Stacey Campfield, who recently reignited the “Don’t Say Gay” madness with a new Senate Bill 234 that would require school guidance counselors to rat out students who have questions about homosexuality, by reporting back to their parents. Campfield’s new bill has been called “Don’t Say Gay on Steroids” by Chris Sanders, chairman and president of the Tennessee Equality Project. Campfield is on record as saying, “The act of homosexuality is very dangerous to someone’s health and safety.” But heterosexual sex is not without serious risks. So why single out homosexuality, except out of sheer bigotry? Campbell is such a national laughingstock that his New York high school is considering removing his picture from its hall of fame. Perhaps it should start a new hall of shame instead.
Rep. Curry Todd, a prime mover of the “Guns in Bars” bill, not only was arrested for driving drunk with a gun in his possession but also he was recently accused of living rent-free in the home of a prominent lobbyist.
U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn remains a poster child for gun mania. She recently opined that gun control laws are not needed because killers can use hatchets and hammers. That’s like saying we don’t need speed limits because someone may still drive faster than the law allows. Blackburn’s absurd “logic” may well end up causing Tennessee children to die. Any sane person capable of rational thought knows that we need speed limits and gun control laws, if we want to protect our children. Then, because some people will undoubtedly ignore the laws, we need to enforce them to our utmost ability, using fines and jail terms to achieve the highest degree of compliance possible.
Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey backed the latest bit of legislative madness, the new “Guns in Trunks” bill, which was just passed the state Senate. Ramsey pushed for a quick vote on the bill because he “didn’t want to be talking about this in March or April.” More March madness.
House Speaker Beth Harwell is also on the record as wanting a quick resolution (i.e., speedy passage) of “Guns in Trunks.”
In support of the bill, State Senator Mark Greek parroted the standard NRA lunacy that, “The only thing that can stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”
The bill’s sponsor in the state House of Representatives, Jeremy Faison, says the new bill should pass unchanged within three weeks, “Lord willing,” as if God is as nutty as the NRA.
Gov. Bill Haslam has said publicly that he favors not changing Tennessee’s gun control laws. But has also been quoted as saying that he favors letting employees keep guns in their trunks even if their employers wish otherwise. Democrat Mike McWherter recently accused Haslam of flip-flopping on this very important issue. The NRA seems to agree that Haslam is wishy-washy on guns, giving him a B- grade in a Tennessee class of mostly straight-A students.
If Haslam is another Tennessee stumblebum, at least he has enough sense not to seem like an advocate of full-speed-ahead, unmitigated madness. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for many of Tennessee’s leading political lights. They seem to be intent on never passing up an opportunity to quickly sign more sheer stupidity into law — full speed ahead, and damn the torpedoes.
Michael R. Burch is a Nashville-based editor and publisher of Holocaust poetry and other “things literary” at www.thehypertexts.com.