Thursday, May 25, 2017

Tennessee Legislature Takes Action to Reduce Ineffective Gun Free Zones

On 18 May, 2017, the Tennessee Legislature sent bill HB0508 to Governor Haslam for action. The bill was very popular in the legislature. It passed the House 71-14, and the Senate 26 to 6.

The essence of the bill is that it requires local and state government entities to use more than mere signs to ban firearms from their premises. The common sense approach is that signs merely stop law abiding people from carrying, while doing little to prevent people armed with ill intent from entering such facilities. The mechanism to enforce the bill is that of private lawsuits. Triple damages, including attorney fees, may be awarded under the provisions of the bill.  Organizations whose members are effected may sue.

The bill removes immunity from state or local government entities if they prohibit the lawful carry of firearms from their property, unless they institute actual measures to prevent people from carrying firearms on the property.  The measures required would be metal detectors and security guards on all public entrances. 

An amendment was added to the bill on May 3, 2017, exempting some government premises.  From

AMENDMENT #2 revises this bill as follows:

(1) Prohibits a "local government or a permittee thereof" instead of an entity of "local or state government" from enacting or enforcing a prohibition or restriction on the possession of a "handgun by a handgun carry permit holder" instead of a "firearm" on property owned or administered by the entity;
(2) Adds an "authorized representative with the authority to deny entry to the property" to the persons who may inspect a bag, package, or container as described above in (3) in the bill summary; and
(3) Adds that this bill will not apply to:
(A) Licensed mental health facilities, facilities licensed under the provisions governing juveniles, such as childcare agencies, or licensed healthcare facilities;
(B) Schools and parks where certain school-related events are occurring, if present law prohibits firearms on such property;
(C) Property on which judicial proceedings occur regardless of whether judicial proceedings are in progress;
(D) Buildings that contain a law enforcement agency;
(E) Libraries; or
(F) Facilities that are licensed by the department of human services and administer a Head Start program.
 The bill is a step forward in eliminating irrational gun free zones. It will likely be signed by Governor Haslan. He has stated that there is no point in opposing a bill that has more than 2/3 of the votes of the legislature.  From
"You can veto it, but if something passes two-to-one, you're probably wasting your breath," Haslam says. "So you're better off to try to work on the front end to try to get the bill in as good a shape as it can be."
This reform measure will eliminate some irrational gun free zones, but some new ones are created. In previous law, gun free zones were only allowed in rooms where court proceedings were actually in session. The new law changes that to buildings that contain rooms where judicial proceeding happen. It is a major change.

The bill is a tradeoff. Most legislators probably did not realize the change created by (C) above.

©2017 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice and link are included.

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