Speakers OK guns at the legislature — after move to Cordell Hull quarters

Handgun permit holders were prohibited from bringing their weapons into the Legislative Plaza, but when the General Assembly relocates to the remodeled Cordell Hull building, permit holders will be able to keep their guns when visiting lawmakers or attending committee meetings.

House Speaker Beth Harwell and Senate Speaker Randy McNally announced the new policy in a joint statement to media:

“Carry permit holders will be allowed to carry their firearms into the Cordell Hull Building, the new home of the Tennessee General Assembly. Tennessee carry permit holders are among the most law-abiding demographics in our state. To receive a permit, a citizen must be fingerprinted, submit to a background check and receive firearm training. Permit holders wishing to carry their firearms into Cordell Hull will be required to present their permit at security. A thorough screening process will determine the validity of the permit. Once that validity is established, a permit holder will be allowed exercise their Second Amendment while visiting their state government.”

Further from The Tennessean:

The Cordell Hull building, which is in the final stages of remodeling, is expected to be open to the public in the next two weeks. The building will house offices for lawmakers and legislative committee and hearing rooms.

The decision to allow guns inside the Cordell Hull building was quickly met with criticism by (House Democratic Caucus Chairman) Rep. Mike Stewart, D-Nashville, who called it “extremely reckless.”

…He pointed to problems that have arisen in other states that allow guns in legislative offices and capitol complexes as a harbinger of what could happen in Tennessee under the new policy.

“There are multiple examples of where there have been weapons dropped and other accidents,” said Stewart.

And, here’s an excerpt from an email sent out by Tennessee Firearms Association Executive Director John Harris:

It is not clear if the policy change will impact only the facilities in the Cordell Hull Building or if the new policy will also be effective in the Capitol building and legislative chamber facilities.

It is important to understand that this is only a policy change and that it lies almost entirely in the discretion of two state officials – the Lt. Governor and the Speaker of the House – at this point.

State law currently does not prohibit handgun permit holders from carrying their firearms with them in the Capitol or the legislative offices or facilities. The current ban is entirely at the option of the Legislature which has continuously enforced the ban by posting these taxpayer funded facilities pursuant to Tennessee’s general statute that allows almost any property to be posted as a “gun free zone.”

…While today’s press release is good news for handgun permit holders, it is not clear if this rule will also enable employees who work in the legislature to be armed if they have a permit.  It is believed that for years the Legislative Leaders and the Tennessee Highway Patrol have “looked the other way” when elected officials (such as legislators) carried personal firearms in the legislature despite the posted ban.  (Note:  Under TCA 39-17-1359, a violation of a posted ban is a Class B misdemeanor)

In addition, the question remains as to why Tennessee, which has been subject to a Republican governor, a Republican Lt. Governor, a Republican Speaker and which has had super majorities of Republicans in both houses of its legislature since at least 2011 has failed to take this step in the past but has instead treated handgun permit holders as perhaps ‘too dangerous’ to trust around the lawmakers for the last 7 years.

UPDATE/Note: Guns will still be prohibited in the state Capitol building, where the governor’s office is located along with the House and Senate chambers, reports the Times Free Press Thursday. Excerpt:

Republican Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration, which opposed earlier efforts to let permit holders bring weapons in the sprawling Capitol complex, still won’t allow guns into the Capitol proper — which houses the governor’s office as well as the House and Senate chambers.

“The General Assembly has control over the operations of Cordell Hull,” Haslam press secretary Jennifer Donnals said in an email. “The governor’s position regarding the State Capitol has not changed and guns will continue to be prohibited inside the Capitol building.”

Instead, the Department of Safety and Homeland Security will be setting up a screening checkpoint before visitors reach elevators taking people to the Capitol itself, a legislative official said…. The Haslam administration in 2016 cited security concerns about allowing the public to carry guns in Legislative Plaza, which is linked by tunnel to the state Capitol.

Cordell Hull is linked to the Capitol as well, but the General Assembly has complete control of Cordell Hull.

3 Responses to Speakers OK guns at the legislature — after move to Cordell Hull quarters

  • Bob Miles says:

    Do away with all gun free zones.

  • Norma Shirk says:

    Texas used to allow guns in court rooms…..until an angry appellant (father in a bitter divorce & custody case) killed several appeals court judges and lawyers in Ft. Worth. Please note that the recent terrorist attack in NYC killed 8 people with a vehicle. But a born & raised U.S. citizen in Las Vegas killed scores of people with automated guns. And yet, we’re more worried about threats from foreign born terrorists than the totally sane gun owners who mow down U.S. citizens. I guess gun violence is such an everyday occurrence that we don’t even notice or care anymore.

  • Kay White says:

    Until the hearts of Americans and Tennesseans turn back to God, we will continue to see violence in our streets. People have elevated themselves above God’s laws when they take the lives of others into their hands. Our Ten Commandments tells us as Christians “Do not Kill” and we are to obey God’s laws just as we are to obey the laws of our land, our Constitution. If these two laws were obeyed, we would be closing our jails instead of building more!

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