Bills Pit Property Rights Against Gun Rights in Tennessee

Let’s role-play for a moment.  Pretend I’m an anti-gun business owner and you’re a gun enthusiast (shouldn’t be that difficult of a role) that just started working for me. 

And despite the fact that you have a valid concealed carry permit, I tell you that you are not allowed to bring your gun on the premises of my business.  Not in the office, not in the parking lot, nowhere. 

How do you respond?  Do you heed my instructions?

Moreover, and speaking in terms of what’s fair and just, do my rights as a business owner, a property owner, trump your fundamental right to defend yourself? 

These are the questions that Tennessee lawmakers have been contemplating for the past three years as several bills have been introduced to guarantee that workers can keep firearms in their cars at work regardless of a company’s policy. 

Unfortunately, each year, the measures have been shot down. 

Is this the year that things change? 

Currently, there are two bills in the state legislature that would change the status quo.  The bills were drafted with the help of the NRA and were introduced by Sen. Mike Faulk (R-Church Hill) and Rep. Eddie Brass (D-Prospect).

“These NRA-drafted bills would prevent employers from discriminating and enforcing policies against the storage of lawfully owned firearms in employees’ locked private motor vehicles while parked at work,” said the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action in a news release.

The first bill, S.B. 3002, “would recognize that hardworking Tennesseans’ right to self-defense does not end when they drive onto their employer’s property or into publicly accessible parking lots,” the NRA release stated.

And the second bill, S.B. 2992, labeled the “Firearm Discrimination Prevention Act” would “protect law-abiding gun owners from anti-gun policies by employers across the state, including forced firearm registration, random vehicle firearm searches, and “gun zone” parking lots for gun owning employees,” according to the release. 

So far the bills have garnered mixed reviews.  The Governor’s spokesman David Smith said the administration has “concerns with the breadth” of the bills.  That is, if passed, the measures would allow workers in both the private and public sector to bring firearms to work, which includes everyone from college faculty to airport workers. 

Republican leaders in the state House were also less than thrilled with idea of voting on the bills in the near future (most, it appears, would prefer to wait after the elections this fall).   

“It’s not a priority for me this session,” said House Speaker Beth Harwell (R-Nashville). “As we’ve said all along, our priority is to ensure that we’re the most business-friendly state in this union.”

And speaking to the business-friendly aspect, outright critics of the bills say that they would negatively impact Tennessee’s ability to attract new businesses.

“I find it hard to understand how people who are strong supporters of the Second Amendment can so easily throw away the property rights of every other individual,” said Deb Woolley, president of the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce.

“This is about taking away your right and my right as a property owner to say you can bring a gun on my property,” she said.

Woolley also called the proposal “one of those issues that’s a solution without a problem right now,” because people with handgun carry permits can already bring their weapons anywhere that hasn’t specifically been posted with a gun ban.

Besides, Woolley added, “I don’t know of any business in the state that makes it a condition of your employment where you have to park your car.”

The state Senate should be voting on the measures in the near future.  However, the state House has not yet scheduled a vote.  

As always, we’ll keep you posted.