We’ve won some key battles but still have two big ones to fight!
In the landmark Heller decision in 2008, the Supreme Court held that handguns could not be banned. But, in his opinion, conservative Justice Scalia also said that while handguns could not be banned, “Like most rights, the second amendment is not unlimited. It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.”
The CDC currently rates the state of Tennessee as #9 for accidental shootings. That’s 9th out of 50.
Many accidental shootings involve children finding loaded unsecured guns and shooting themselves or a sibling or friend. Many accidental shootings occur when a responsible gun owner accidentally discharges their firearm, sometimes in a public place.
In March, a Coffee county toddler shot his 18 month old brother in the face. The following week, an 11 year old and 15 year old were playing with a gun in Nashville when it went off, shooting and killing the 15 year old. Last week, a Blount county corrections officer left a loaded gun at home where teens found it and while playing with it, one of them accidentally shot the other one.
In a report released last year by the Violence Policy Center, our state is ranked #6 for men murdering women in domestic violence. Sadly over the years, Tennessee has consistently been in the top 10. Over the last week, there were two murder suicides involving armed men ambushing their estranged partners at work. In both cases, witnesses watched in horror as the men shot the women then turned the gun on themselves. Also, just over the weekend, a former law enforcement officer in Lenoir City, shot his ex-wife multiple times in the chest and held responding officers at bay for four hours before finally surrendering.
According to recent data available from the CDC, Tennessee ranks 12th in the nation in suicide. Academic study after study, including this one by the Harvard School of Public Health, discusses the prevalence of suicide by firearm. Guns are used in suicides, especially completed suicides, more than all other methods combined. Many times, suicides by gun are the sad result of an impulse and an easily accessible deadly weapon. The success rate for suicide by gun is far greater than by any other method. In Tennessee, 600 people each year use a gun to kill themselves. That’s around 11 per week.
These are facts, not opinions. They are the result of scientific study and medical research, not the ideology of privately funded “think tanks” or extremely well-financed lobbying groups or PACs.
Gun injury is a problem in our state.
Fact: To obtain a handgun permit, you pay a fee and take an 8 hour training course. You are then deemed legally allowed to carry a weapon that can take a life in a matter of seconds.
Fact: While the majority of permit holders will go through their entire lives without an incident, it is completely disingenuous to assume that simply obtaining a permit somehow means the permit holder will never make a mistake with their gun, use it to commit a crime, or exercise bad judgement. A current member of the state House of Representatives, Rep. Curry Todd, sponsored a bill to allow permit holders to carry into bars and restaurants, promising that permit holders would know better than to carry while drinking. Not long after, he was arrested for DUI with a loaded handgun in his vehicle. He is still a state representative and continues to vote for bills that ease any and all restrictions on gun laws. (In fact, earlier this week, he stood in the well of the House of Representatives and made misleading and dishonest statements about the guns in trunks bill.)
To put it simply, the act of owning a handgun permit does not imbue the holder with infallibility and perfect judgement.
Clearly this is something the members of our General Assembly understand. They prohibit the carry of firearms – even by permit holders – in the buildings where they conduct business. Visitors to legislative plaza, the War Memorial Building, and the Capitols must go through metal detectors. It seems obvious they are concerned about safety and take the responsibility to keep their staffs and themselves seriously. This is commendable.
Why then do they not allow other employers to make those same choices? Private businesses should have the right to decide whether or not they want guns on their premises. The current “guns in trunks” bill will force private, tax paying businesses to allow employees to store guns and ammunition in their vehicle. The bill is actually designed to allow employees to sue their employer if the employee believes they’ve been fired or disciplined for bringing a gun in their car. Tennessee has long prided itself on being an “at-will” state. But, bring guns into the picture and everything changes.
The legislature won’t allow guns where they work but they are currently trying to force cities to allow guns into their parks, playgrounds, and recreation areas. And, of course the city-owned Music City Center where the NRA faithful will gather the week after this bill becomes law. For a legislature that seems quite concerned by “big government” forcing its will onto local authorities, it’s ironic that this bill intendeds to do just that- strip local governments of the right to decide whether they want guns in their city-funded parks and playgrounds.
Although state representatives and senators have the assurance that visitors to their place of business are screened by metal detectors, they want to force cities to allow guns where children play and communities gather. In many cases here in Nashville, schools use public parks and athletic fields for school activities. Representatives from various school boards in the state have spoken out in opposition to this, voicing concerns about safety and liability. Buildings such as Centennial Sportsplex and other publicly funded athletic facilities will also be affected.
These legislators, despite vocal opposition from dozens of mayors, police chiefs, Sheriffs’ Associations, Chambers of Commerce, The TBI, The Commissioner of Safety and Homeland Security, city councils, Tennessee State Troopers, tax paying citizens that pay for their cities’ parks, some Republican legislators, and the Republican governor of the state, are still committed to forcing these bills on our state.
Why? Follow the money.
The National Rifle Association is pushing these exact same bills across the country. The National Rifle Association is very well-funded and contributes financially to candidates in exchange for sponsorship of these bills and votes to pass them. When a representative doesn’t vote their way, they attack them and fund other candidates to run against them. This practice is called “primarying” and it is an unspoken, at least in public, implied threat hanging over every representative’s head.
This is legislation by intimidation and it is not good for our state.
Many board members of The National Rifle Association’s Board of Directors are gun and ammunition manufacturers. They benefit greatly by ginning up fear of gun bans and confiscation (which constitutionally could never happen) and they certainly benefit from laws that encourage more people to carry more guns to more places. The fact that research, including this study by Boston Children’s Hospital or this one by Harvard, illustrate that states with lax gun laws have higher rates of gun violence doesn’t concern them.
It concerns us.
If it concerns you, we urge you to please call the Governor’s office and ask him to say NO to these bills. Both bills will be voted on in the house and senate in the coming weeks. If they pass, and they most likely will, the governor can either sign them into law, not sign them at all (in which case they will become law without his signature), or he can veto them.
Please call. Call every day. Tell your friends who enjoy parks, your friends whose kids play sports in parks, and your friends who are business owners to call. Please tell Governor Haslam that you appreciate his leadership against these bills and that you want him to veto them if they pass. Tell him that you hope he will continue to stand for the rights of cities and private business owners.
When you call, you will speak to a receptionist or assistant. Be polite and gracious. The call will take less than 2 minutes. Elected officials’ offices tally these calls. They matter.
Please call. Please spread the word.
Governor Bill Haslam
And, if you would like get more involved with The Safe Tennessee Project, please visit our Facebook page or our website.
Thank you for helping us keep Tennessee safe for ALL Tennesseans!
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
– Margaret Meade
The Safe Tennessee Project is a non-partisan, volunteer based organization dedicated to addressing the epidemic of gun violence in Tennessee by building awareness about gun safety through community outreach and effective policy advocacy.
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