The Tennessee House of Representatives passed a bill Thursday that gives some legal cover to gun-carry permit holders who get caught with a firearm on posted property.
It’s not a “get out of jail free” card, but it gives an out-of-bounds gun carrier a legal excuse.
Representative Jeremy Faison, a Republican from Cosby, says his bill is supposed to cover inadvertent slip-ups – you can say you didn’t see the sign saying “No Guns Allowed.” Even at a university.
“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.”
Democratic Caucus Chair Mike Turner of Nashville later called the measure a dangerous bill.
“You know, you could actually carry a gun here, to the legislature, and if it was discovered on you, you’d just say, ‘I forgot I had it in my pocket,’ and they really… They gave ’em an out, there.”
The Senate companion piece is still in Senate Judiciary Committee, but it could move out to the Senate floor easily — the bill’s Senate sponsor, Mae Beavers, chairs the Judiciary Committee.
The bill took on additional importance later Thursday morning, when Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey told a business group that a “guns in parking lots” bill won’t pass this year. Property owners had fought that measure, which would have forced them to let employees keep their firearms in a locked car on the employer’s parking lot.
The bill, HB3499 Faison/SB3324 Beavers, passed the House 67-22-1 with an amendment (pdf) that rewrites it. The new version says a handgun carry permit holder has an “affirmative defense” to being charged with “carrying a firearm for the purpose of going armed.”
The sponsor, Faison, explains what the bill is intended to do:
“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.”