Two weeks ago, while Guns.com was getting filled to capacity with gun rights knowledge for the 2012 NRA show in St. Louis, Missouri, another southern state, Tennessee, passed legislation that provides legal cover to gun owners who get caught on posted property while open or concealed carrying, continuing current trends towards less gun control.
The Tennessee House of Representatives voted 67 yays, 22 nays, and one lone abstention last Thursday on HB 3499, introduced by Representative Jeremy Faison in response to House Bill 3559, House Bill 3560, House Bill 3660 and House Bill 3479, all provisions that permit gun owners to keep their guns locked in their cars regardless at work and other businesses, regardless of that businesses policy on handguns, which met heavy resistance in the TN House earlier this year from Senate speaker Ron Ramsey.
Though not intended to be a “get out of jail free” card for space-cadet shooters (this fact was underlined in an 11th hour revision to the bill that the described the conditions covered under the law more exactly), the bill will provide carriers who accidently find themselves wandering around their neighbor’s yard while armed, a legal excuse for their carry gun if caught and prosecuted for trespassing (and an excuse Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam has said he is eager to add his name to).
The bill’s sponsors say this legislation acts as legal insurance in case of harmless accidents (like missing a posted land sign or not noticing a business is “No Guns Allowed.” Rep. told reporters over the weekend:
“First of all, if you’re a licensed permit holder, and you have a gun, and you were not supposed to have it in a place, that was posted – you didn’t see the posting — and for whatever reason it was found that you had a gun. And no nefarious things were happening, you hadn’t broke the law any other way, but you happened to have a gun there. We’re just saying that you have a defense, an affirmative defense, in the state of Tennessee.”
Regardless of the bill’s intent, its implications if passed in the Senate (specifically due to the strong wording) could have much a much farther-reaching impact on Tennessee shooter’s right to carry than merely hunters who wander onto posted property: the bill’s authority cover even more controversial locations like universities, courthouses and even government buildings. Rep. Haslam continued:
“You brought up the University of Tennessee. This is not saying it’s OK to have a gun there. It’s saying, you have a defense, should you have had a gun.”
The bills twin in the Senate, SB3324, is currently in committee but a move to the floor seems to be a given—the bill’s architect, Mae Beavers, is the judiciary committees chair.