Gun Guys Win In House Sub

On February 25, 2009, in News 2009, by Mark Norris, Humphrey on the Hill
February 25, 2009

Handgun carry permit holders could pack their pistols in more places while their names would be kept quiet legislation approved Wednesday by a House subcommittee that has blocked similar bills in the past.

The House Criminal Practice Subcommittee approved three of four bills recommended earlier by a special study committee. They were:

-HB959 by Rep. Eddie Bass, D-Pulaski, which would seal records of permit holders that are now open to public inspection. As amended, anyone disclosing information about permit holders would face a $2,500 fine.

-HB962 by Rep. Curry Todd, R-Collierville, which would allow permit holders to take their weapons into restaurants that sell alcoholic beverages, so long as the permit holder does not consume alcohol himself or herself. Guns will still be forbidden in such establishments after 11 p.m.

-HB961 by Rep. Mike Bell, R-Riceville, which allows guns to be taken into wildlife management areas and national forests.

A fourth bill recommended by the study committee, HB960 by Rep. Harry Tindell, D-Knoxville, would have allowed guns in state parks, city and county parks and national parks.

Tindell agreed to an amendment urged by Rep. Janis Sontany, D-Nashville, that would continue the current ban on guns in city and county parks.

A vote on Tindell’s bill vote was then postponed for a week with some legislators suggesting another change to give local governments authority to decide whether to allow guns in parks they operate.

The panel proceeded, however, to pass a similar bill, HB716 by Rep. Frank Niceley, R-Strawberry Plains, that was already drafted to allow guns in state parks, but not in local parks.

House Speaker Kent Williams was among those calling for guns to remain prohibited in local parks, saying “I’ve seen too many fits of anger at local parks” during sports events and the like and “We don’t need to escalate the problems.”

All the gun bills were approved on voice votes with the only apparent no votes on the six-member committee coming from Sontany and Rep. Karen Camper, D-Memphis.

Rep. Joe McCord, R-Maryville, served as the chairman of the study committee and said the four bills have “the most consensus” for passage among a host of bills filed to deal with handgun permit restrictions.

McCord had originally sponsored several of handgun bills, but turned them over to Tindell, Bell and others. He was among sponsors listed by the Chattanooga Times Free Press Wednesday as a handgun permit holder, but said that had nothing to do with his decision to let others take a lead in pushing the bills.

Frank Gibson, who heads the Tennessee Coalition for Open Government, questioned whether such a situation could pose a conflict of interest.

But McCord said he sees no conflict in holding permit while pushing bills dealing with permits – or no more than holding a driver’s license and taking positions on bills dealing with traffic offenses.

Other legislators holding carry permits while sponsoring legislation on the topics, the newspaper said, include Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, R-Collierville, Sen. Tim Burchett, R-Knoxville, and Sen. Doug Jackson, D-Dickson.

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