In a press conference this morning, Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey announced that he and House Speaker Beth Harwell plan to speak with Governor Haslam today about ending the ban on firearms at Legislative Plaza. According to Ramsey, the legislature’s leadership has the authority to end the ban themselves and could do so within weeks.
Ramsey goes on to add that Speaker Harwell supports lifting the ban and that allowing guns to be carried at Legislative Plaza will make everyone safer. Only permit holders would be allowed to carry.
“So, a few legislators in leadership get to make this decision but the rest of our elected legislators have no input,” said Beth Joslin Roth, Policy Director for The Safe Tennessee Project. “That doesn’t seem very representative to me.”
It was not clear what procedures, if any, will be in place to determine if someone carrying a gun is a legal permit holder, a legal gun owner with no permit, or a prohibited person legally barred from owning a gun.
During the debate over guns in parks last year, an amendment that would allow permit holders to bring guns to the Capitol complex was discussed but ultimately abandoned due to the fiscal note associated with additional security costs as well as concerns that Governor Haslam would not agree to it. The Department of Safety also raised concerns.
“Legislative Plaza is where the people’s business takes place,” Roth said. “It’s where committees meet to hear debate on bills. It’s where constituents come to meet with their representatives. Emotions can run very high. Introducing guns into these highly charged situations is a bad idea.
“Contrary to the myths we hear at Legislative Plaza, allowing more guns where they were previously prohibited will only increase the likelihood of unintentional shootings,” said Beth Joslin Roth, executive director of the Safe Tennessee Project. “That’s why the Tennessee Highway Patrol has repeatedly opposed these efforts, and will likely still oppose guns in the Capitol.”
Tennessee is 9th in the nation for accidental shootings.
“It’s only February, and there have already been 10 unintentional shootings in Tennessee, resulting in the deaths of two children and one adult,” Roth said. “Encouraging people to bring their guns to crowded hallways of the plaza poses an unnecessary risk to the lives of legislators, staff and the public.”