guns

Legislator uses campaign money for machine gun ammo

State Rep. Judd Matheny, currently running for the Republican nomination to the 6th Congressional District seat, used $1,600 from his legislative campaign funds to pay for ammunition fired during target shooting for lawmakers with machine guns in April, reports The Tennessean.

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Repeal of TN ban on gun silencers confuses some would-be buyers

Since the Legislature repealed a state law banning firearm silencers earlier this year, some Tennesseans have been going into gun stores thinking they could now buy one, reports the Kingsport Times-News. But the state law change had no impact on federal law that requires approval from the federal Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Division and thus the “Tennessee Hearing Protection Act” had no real impact on the already-in-place procedure for getting a silencer, also known as a suppressor.

“The people in Nashville signed the paperwork, and people think you can now come in and buy your silencer by just doing a gun check,” (Sally) Simpson (owner of The Gun Rack in Kingsport) said. “But silencers are regulated by the federal government, so they overrule the state government.” (She said a dozen people per day either visit her store or call wanting to buy a silencer.)

…If you wish to purchase a silencer, you must go to a licensed firearm dealer, fill out an application and send $200 to the ATF, which then does a background check on the buyer, Simpson said, noting that some folks are waiting up to a year to hear back from the federal agency.

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Haslam signs controversial gun bill

Gov. Bill Haslam signed into law Friday a bill (HB508) that requires city and county governments to install new security measures at public buildings where firearms are banned and makes them subject to paying triple lawyer fees of individuals or organizations that successfully sue local governments over gun issues.

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Haslam on calls for veto of gun bill: ‘Probably wasting your breath’

Questioned about the most controversial gun bill approved by the legislature this year, Gov. Bill Haslam says there’s no point in vetoing a measure that passed by lopsided majorities.

The bill (HB508) makes it easier – perhaps even profitable – for gunowners and groups such as the National Rifle Association to sue cities and counties over any restrictions imposed on carrying firearms by persons with a concealed carry permit. A successful plaintiff, under the bill, could get triple the attorney fees paid in a legal challenge to a local ordinance.

Nashville Mayor Megan Barry and several groups have urged Haslam to veto the measure. Asked if he will, Haslam said he’s still officially reviewing the measure, then added (as quoted by WPLN):

“You can veto it, but if something passes two-to-one, you’re probably wasting your breath,” Haslam says. “So you’re better off to try to work on the front end to try to get the bill in as good a shape as it can be.”

In Tennessee, lawmakers can override a governor’s veto with a simple majority.

The bill passed the House 70-24. The Senate vote was 26-6. It also came back to the House for concurrence on a Senate amendment and that vote was 71-14. The bill reached his desk on May 18, according to the legislative website. Under the state constitution, he has 10 days from that date — excluding Sundays — to make a decision (which, it appears, would actually fall on Memorial Day).  Besides signing the bill or vetoing it, the governor can let it become law without his signature

A clash of press releases on 2017 TN legislature’s gunfights

In press releases, both the National Rifle Association, which advocates for less gun control, and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, which advocates for more, are pretty much proclaiming victory in the 2017 Tennessee legislative session.

That perhaps indicates the session was pretty much a mixed bag on the gun front. Here are the contrasting press releases:

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Legislature votes to ‘hammer’ local governments imposing gun bans

The House and Senate gave final approval Tuesday to legislation that makes it easier – perhaps even profitable – for gun-rights groups and their lawyers to challenge in court firearm bans on locally owned government property including parks, public buses and auditoriums.

There was some fairly heated debate on both the House and Senate floors, but with strong National Rifle Association support HB508 passed by comfortable margins in both chambers: Initially 70-24 in the House, then 26-5 Tuesday in the Senate, which added an amendment changing some of the wording. The House quickly signed off on the Senate amendment later Tuesday, 71-14, sending it to Gov. Bill Haslam (who was rather non-committal when asked about it recently).

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House OKs mandate that cities pay triple lawyer fees if they lose gun rights lawsuits

The House approved 70-24 Wednesday a bill that, according to the Times-Free Press, would give Tennessee cities and counties an ultimatum: buy metal detectors, hire security guards and check bags at many public buildings, parks and buses; or let people with handgun permits bring in their guns.

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Legislature repeals state-level ban on gun silencers

The House gave final approval Monday to a bill, officially labeled “The Tennessee Hearing Protection Act,” that repeals a state law generally prohibiting firearm silencers.

The final House vote was 74-18. That came after House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Stewart tried, unsuccessfully, to amend the measure (SB921) to require background checks for persons buying a silence and to declare use a silencer-equipped weapon  in committing a crime a felony.

The Senate had approved the bill 28-1 on April 3. Sponsors are Sen. Steve Southerland Rep. Tilman Goins, both R-Morristown.

In the House debate, Goins noted that silencers must be registered with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms after payment of a $200 fee. He said the bill just “gets Tennessee out of the way” for those who want to buy and use silencers in accord with federal regulations.

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Silent senators block cut in illegal pistol packing penalties

A bill to reduce penalties for illegally carrying a gun couldn’t get a seconding motion in the Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday, leaving it dead for the year after clearing a House committee that has shot down some other bills pushed by Second Amendment advocates this year.

Sen. Frank Niceley, R-Strawberry Plains, sponsor of SB339, tells The Tennessean that some senators may have thought that reducing penalties for carrying a pistol without a permit would undermine future efforts for passage of “constitutional carry” legislation, which would make it legal to carry a gun without any permit.

The House Civil Justice Subcommittee killed “constitutional carry” bills earlier this year. (Previous post HERE.) But it had approved the House version of Niceley’s bill, sponsored by Rep. Jeremy Faision, R—Cosby.

The bill would have removed jail time from the first two offenses of carrying without a permit, and only subjecting people to a $100 fine for the first offense and $250 for the second offense. Currently, the first offense is a Class A misdemeanor.

“The way the law is now, if you get a Barney Fife out there somewhere — they don’t all act like Andy Griffith — if you get one like Barney Fife, he can take her gun, fine her $500 and put her in jail if he wants to. Now why wouldn’t they (senators on the committee) listen to that,” Niceley said.

The measure has moved through House committees despite opposition from major law enforcement agencies who have argued it could create loopholes that would prevent officers from being able to confiscate firearms from people officers know are armed and believe to be dangerous.

House sub spurns bills expanding guns on campus, at stadiums

Guns on campus expansion

Legislation to expand access to guns on college campuses was killed by its Senate sponsor Wednesday after college officials railed against the effort, reports The Tennessean. The Senate version of the bill (SB975), sponsored by Sen. Frank S. Niceley, applied only to part-time security guards. The House amended its version of the same bill (sponsored by Rep. Dennis Powers, R-Jacksboro) to include all part-time employees. (Officially, Niceley sent the bill to “general subcommittee” in the Senate Education Committee – meaning he’s not going to try for passage this year.)

Meanwhile, the News-Sentinel reports that more than 500 college and university employees across the state are exercising their right to carry guns on public campuses since a new law allowing them to do so went into effect last July.

Guns in stadiums

A measure that would have let off-duty police officers carry guns into any ticketed event was voted down Wednesday in the state legislature, reports WPLN. The broadly worded proposal (HB455 by Rep. Mary Littleton, R-Dickson) was designed to override policies banning guns at private fundraisers, music festivals, even Tennessee Titans games… Rep. Bill Beck, D-Nashville, noted the NFL bans any spectator from carrying a firearm and suggested the team might even decide to relocate rather than allow in weapons.

“So I’m going to have to respect the wishes of the NFL. We spent hundreds of millions of dollars getting them here and building this stadium. And, unfortunately, I don’t want to jeopardize that.”

The bill died on voice vote in the House Civil Justice Subcommittee.

ABOUT THIS BLOG

Former Knoxville News Sentinel capitol bureau chief Tom Humphrey writes about Tennessee politics, government, and legislative news.

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