Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam has signed a bill that would allow people with handgun carry permits to store firearms in their vehicles no matter where they are parked. The measure gained the nickname "guns in trunks" during the legislative session.
The signing comes despite questions about whether the legislation affects employment law in Tennessee because the measure would allow workers to store guns in their cars while parked in their employers' parking lots.
Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey of Blountville and four fellow Republican co-sponsors on Thursday submitted a letter for inclusion into the Senate Journal elaborating on their legislative intent for the measure.
While the letter states the bill does not seek to alter the state's "employment-at-will doctrine," it notes that businesses could run into trouble if they seek to enforce a gun ban on their property.
A bill that would allow handgun permit holders to store firearms just about anywhere they park is poised to become law. The so-called guns-in-trunks legislation now goes to the governor after being passed by the state House.
There would have been very little debate but for 13 amendments proposed mostly by Democrats at the last minute. Most would have exempted certain property owners.
Sponsor Jeremy Faison of East Tennessee says he had no intention of allowing any amendments.
“Absolutely there are some good ideas, but at the end of the day, I gave my word to business people and to common sense gun owners that we were going to pass this bill just like this, and it has something for everybody,” said Faison.
A proposal allowing Tennessee handgun carry permit holders to store firearms in their cars nearly anywhere they are parked is headed for a final vote Thursday morning.
Democrats want to make schools, long-term parking lots and unemployment offices off limits.
The bill’s sponsor has said he is not interested in exemptions. But Nashville Democrat Mike Turner says they should at least be considered, like one allowing any employer to opt out.
“If I’m a business owner, I probably don’t want you carrying on my property and I at least want to have the choice to deny you that right if I want to," said Turner.
Tennessee's largest employers have been less vocal about their opposition to the guns-in-trunks legislation this year. The bill gives the property owner immunity if anyone is hurt with a gun stored on site. It also is restricted to Tennesseans with handgun permits.
There is confusion among the sponsors of so-called ‘Guns-in-Trunks’ legislation in Tennessee. They disagree on whether employers could fire a worker for keeping a gun in their car at the company parking lot, even though it could soon be legal.
During a hearing in the House, Rep. Jeremy Faison said he believed a business owner could still terminate someone storing a weapon in a vehicle.
The legislation doesn’t specifically address the issue, but Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey says he believes gun-carrying employees will be safe from their bosses.
“I feel confident that if they fired someone and they said that was the reason, that employer would be in for a lawsuit and he would lose," says Ramsey.
The Tennessee Senate on Monday passed a bill to give people with handgun carry permits the right to store their loaded firearms in their vehicles wherever they are parked, brushing aside concerns raised by businesses and higher education administrators in Tennessee.
The chamber voted 28-5 to approve the bill sponsored by Republican Speaker Ron Ramsey of Blountville after rejecting Democratic efforts to add potential exclusions for businesses if they were approved by the state Department of Safety.
"If you allow people to come onto your parking lot then they have the right to have that firearm in the car," Ramsey told reporters before the vote.
Ramsey has been pushing for the quick adoption of the bill to avoid a repeat of a drawn out fight last year between gun advocates and the business lobby.
The so-called “guns in trunks” bill is up for a vote in the full Tennessee Senate Monday, and it now appears set for smooth sailing in the state House. Speaker Beth Harwell says the controversial measure will likely pass her chamber.
The bill is revised from last year, when Harwell and other Republican leaders prevented it from coming to a vote at the wishes of big employers.
“By limiting it to gun carrying permit holders put some safeguards in place. And the liability issue, we just had to address that. That’s just something we had to do for business,” said Harwell.
The legislation includes immunity for the property owner if someone is shot with a gun stored in their parking lot. However, the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce is still opposed, saying that business owners should have the right to prevent firearms from being brought on to their property, including parking lots.