Tennessee Lawmakers Hope To Set Tone For This Year's Gun Debate With A Rare Show Of Bipartisanship | Nashville Public Radio

Tennessee Lawmakers Hope To Set Tone For This Year's Gun Debate With A Rare Show Of Bipartisanship

Feb 6, 2018

Tennessee lawmakers are preparing for another season of debate over gun legislation.

But they're trying to get off on a better foot: by coming together on one measure they can agree on.

The bill would exempt gun safes from sales tax in Tennessee, with the goal of incentivizing secure gun storage, rather than threatening penalties. It's sponsored by a pair of Republicans, but on Monday, they were joined by Democrats who said they're willing to get behind a measure that they believe could reduce the number of accidental shootings, particularly of children.

The National Rifle Association might also back the legislation.

"Now, we all agree — and when I say all, I mean Republican, Democrat, gun opponents, gun proponents — we all agree that it's the responsibility of the gun owner to have safe gun storage," said state Sen. Kerry Roberts, R-Springfield.

Senate Bill 2476 would create a permanent exemption for gun safes from state sales tax. The savings for consumers would be marginal, but Roberts, a former bicycle retailer, says the success of Tennessee's sales tax holiday shows that even comparatively small savings can be enough to entice consumers.

Roberts says the idea stemmed from a proposal that failed last year. That bill would have allowed prosecutors to charge gun owners with felony reckless endangerment when their weapons are used by children under 13 to kill or injury themselves or another child.

Memphis Sen. Sara Kyle, that measure's sponsor, is one of the Democrats now backing Kerry's plan.

But this may be a rare moment of agreement. More than a dozen firearm proposals are pending in the state legislature, and recent history shows they're going to be divisive.

Those proposals range from a measure that would make it easier for shooting victims to sue gun dealers to one allowing guns in the non-secure areas of airports, if the owner has a carry permit.

Legislative leaders plan to begin taking up those proposals next week.