Tennessee Lawmakers Are Close To Letting Guns On City Buses

May 2, 2017

A measure that could effectively allow guns on city buses and inside stations is close to passing the Tennessee legislature.

The Senate Finance Committee approved the proposal on Tuesday, sending it to the floor for a final vote within the next few days. The state House of Representatives is scheduled to take the measure up on Wednesday.

House Bill 508/Senate Bill 445 has been making its way through the state legislature throughout this year's session. It does not deal with public transit specifically.

Instead, it opens cities and counties to litigation if they refuse to allow guns into public facilities, but don't set up metal detectors and provide security to enforce the ban. Gun owners and groups like the National Rifle Association could sue if they don't comply.

Courthouses, public libraries and schools are exempt from the legislation. Arenas and other public venues are also effectively excluded because they typically have metal detectors and on-site security.

That leaves bus systems as the primary target. The measure's sponsor, state Sen. John Stevens, R-Huntingdon, says last year's shooting at the Music City Central bus terminal shows the proposal is needed.

"I don't see why discriminating against people who choose to ride a bus, why we would choose to make them go unarmed when it's clear that there are guns in these facilities."

Supporters say local governments could still keep out guns if they step up security. But lawmakers were told Wednesday that's impractical: Staffing metal detectors would cost millions of dollars a year and create massive delays.