Letter regarding "Guns in Trunks" sent to representatives in the TN General Assembly

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WGNS has obtained a letter about "Guns in Trunks" that has been sent to all representatives in the Tennessee General Assembly on Wednesday. There letter was sent by John Harris, the Executive Director of the Tennessee Firearms Association. The letter is posted below (uncut): 

2/19/14 URGENT NOTICE TO ALL REPRESENTATIVES IN THE TENNESSEE GENERAL ASSEMBLY  

RE: HB1405 / GUNS-IN-TRUNKS

One of TFA's top issues is fixing the disastrous Ron Ramsey "parking lot" legislation from 2013.  We are calling on you to help pass a real solution and not just an incremental, insignificant swat at the problems.

The 2013 "parking lot" legislation was poorly written and has generated a lot of negative attention.   It has numerous flaws.   It does not fully protect against criminal prosecution of those attempting to comply but who may misunderstand the law.  It did nothing to protect the jobs of those attempting to comply with the law.

There are MANY pending bills that revisit last year's legislation. 

Unfortunately, the legislature is rushing to pass bills that fall far short of a fix.  These bills are claimed to be pro-Second Amendment but in reality are nothing more than minor adjustments that have the effect of blockading real solutions.

One such bill, HB1405, is scheduled for the House floor calendar for Thursday, February 20.  However, other bills, such as HB1667 (Pody), offer better solutions but are trapped by leadership in the committee system with no plans to bring them to the floor so that they can be considered by all elected House members.  As a consequence, most Tennesseans are being disenfranchised because their Representatives are not being given a chance to consider and vote on a real solution. Many of you may not even be aware that HB1667 exists and has the strong support of TFA.

As TFA discussed with the caucus leader several weeks ago, TFA will be scoring votes on any parking lot legislation as one of its top three legislative agendas in 2014.  For clarity, TFA will score affirmative votes on HB1405, unless completely amended, as a NEGATIVE vote for 2nd Amendment purposes.

What does TFA propose?

1.  Send HB1405 back to committee so that the committee can consider the bill in conjunction with the other bills that have been filed on this issue.  One reason that this is critical is that HB1405 amends the 2013 law (TCA 39-17-1313) in very minor ways.  However, HB1667 deletes TCA 39-17-1313 and completely rewrites it in order to fix as many problems with existing TCA 39-17-1313 as possible and to address as many of the issues that the Attorney General identified as possible.   

Alternatively,

2.  Amend HB1405 on the House Floor by substituting fully the language of HB1667.

Alternatively

3.  Send all parking lot bills to a study committee so that the problems with the current law, its intent and the right solution can be identified and bring this issue back in 2015.

If HB1405 moves forward despite the three options outlined above, VOTE NO OR REFUSE TO VOTE on the floor.

BACKGROUND (in the letter from the TN Firearms Assoc.):

Ron Ramsey pushed through the "parking lot" legislation in 2013 with "no amendments" and you were forced to comply with leadership.  

The legislation failed to offer both complete criminal and employment protections for any individual who leaves a firearm secured in their vehicle while at work.  TFA communicated the flaws to you in writing last year before that legislation was passed.  TFA worked with several House members to offer floor amendments but those amendments were defeated with tabling votes by leadership.

It cannot be disputed that Rep. Faison testified repeatedly in the House hearings that the 2013 law was not intended to address job protections or risks.  The videos of his committee testimony are unequivocal: http://wapp.capitol.tn.gov/apps/BillInfo/Default.aspx?BillNumber=HB0118&ga=108   Indeed, the record is so clear that the sponsor went into recess so that Tom Tique, long time legislative attorney, could more specifically reaffirm that the legislation did not address job protections. 

After its passage, the Attorney General confirmed the existence of serious flaws in the 2013 law.  See, Opinion 13-41  The AG noted that law abiding citizens are not protected from losing their job or from criminal prosecutions under the 2013 law.

Even though the TFA feels that a later contrary opinion manufactured by legislative staff attorneys at the direction of Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey is incorrect, the mere existence of two such divergent opinions shows that there is no clarity or certainty in the law as it is currently written on this issue.   The degree of disagreement in these two opinions actually lends support to the conclusion that the 2013 law is so vague that it may be unconstitutional under the "vagueness doctrine."

While we believe that Senator Green and Leader McCormick perceive that they are working to advance Second Amendment rights with these bills, the bills on this topic do not effectively address all of the problems or ambiguities.  These bills are very small steps that do nothing to resolve the major problems that exist relative to the risk to citizens of being terminated for cause merely for storing legally possessed personal items in personal vehicles.

HB1667 is a better solution.  It grows directly from changes in Tennessee's castle doctrine (39-11-611) just a few years ago that reclassified the personal vehicle as an extension of a person's home.   It provides that a person may store any legally possessed personal property in a legally possessed vehicle (excluding a company car) without risk of criminal prosecution or job termination.    Certainly, HB1667, which defines the property rights of citizens in motor vehicles consistent with the castle doctrine is a better, broader solution.

If you have any doubts or hesitation about what to do, insist that these rushed bills be sent back to committee for a clearer understanding of the problem and the available solutions.  Do not proceed with voting for a bill that offers only partial solutions when constitutionally protected rights are infringed by current law and citizens have to choose between the capacity to defend their lives and traveling unarmed merely to protect a job.

Sincerely,

John Harris
Executive Director
Tennessee Firearms Association

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