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Ramsey May Go His Own Way on Guns-in-Lots

by Andrea Zelinski on July 13, 2012

As gun advocates continue dropping political bombs on legislative incumbents this election season, Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey says he’s beginning to think legislative leaders and lawmakers may not be of “a mood” to expand gun laws next year.

At least, not with the help of gun rights groups.

Between the National Rifle Association launching an expensive political war with a top House Republican and the Tennessee Firearms Association firing criticism all over the party’s leadership, Republicans have lately felt themselves unfairly targeted. Ramsey said Thursday those attacks may sour leadership’s plans to consider allowing gun owners to keep their weapons locked in their car while at work, or cause leaders to sideline state and national gun groups from helping hammer out a bill.

“I don’t know what the mood of the General Assembly will be when we come back in, whether it will be a mood to pass a bill or whether it will be a mood that you don’t negotiate with people that threaten you. I don’t know where we’ll be,” Ramsey told reporters on Capitol Hill Thursday, adding it’s “pretty obvious” guns groups are trying to bully lawmakers.

However, John Harris, Tennessee Firearms Association executive director and a vocal critic of GOP leadership, said actions that may appear like bullying to a politician could more appropriately be described as an effort to add accountability into the political mix.

Statehouse GOP leaders have adopted an attitude of “We’re the rulers, and we’re the ones who make the decisions, and you don’t tell us what to do,” said Harris.

“That’s not being a representative of the people who voted for you,” he said. “If their mentality is, ‘Play with us on our terms or we’re not going to deal with your issues,’ then our response as a grassroots organization is, ‘We’re going to go in your district and find someone who will beat you in the primary or beat you in the general election.'”

That’s exactly what’s being attempted by gun-rights advocates in Sumner County, where the National Rifle Association has poured more than $75,000 into an effort to unseat Rep. Debra Maggart, the House GOP Caucus leader they blame for holding up the so-called “guns in parking lots” bill. They are supporting challenger Courtney Rogers, a former Tea Party organizer and retired Air Force lieutenant colonel, in the Aug. 2 GOP primary.

The guns-in-lots issue divided the Republican party this year as they had to choose between two key constituencies: Second Amendment advocates who want the tools to protect themselves and business leaders who say they have a right to ban guns from their property. Firearm advocates eventually agreed to compromise by narrowing the bill to only handgun permit holders, but Republicans stopped the bill just short of a House floor vote.

Ramsey contends the issue is “not about the Second Amendment,” but rather the right of employers to set workplace rules.

“The Second Amendment protects us from the government, from the government taking away our firearms,” said Ramsey. “This is a contract between two people. We’re talking about landowner and an employee.”

Guns-in-lots legislation supporters contend that the property-rights argument cuts both ways, given that an employee’s personal vehicle is involved and the employers are in essence demanding the authority to dictate what’s transported to and from work inside them. Harris said the real issue is essentially one of state-sanctioned discrimination against a certain class of otherwise law-abiding citizens exercising a constitutional right.

“If the employee owns the car, they have a right to have whatever they can legally transport in the car, and the employer shouldn’t have a say in there,” said Harris.

Ramsey, who has delighted in the support of gun-rights enthusiasts in the past, said he’s now grown weary of the TFA and NRA. The lieutenant governor — who like leaders in the House intervened to ensure no vote would be taken on the matter on the chamber floor — said he may try to hammer out a related piece of legislation next session with or without support from gun groups.

He said the bill could include employees putting a copy of their handgun carry permit on file with their employer. Ramsey said he would also like to include language that reiterates that handgun-carry permit holders must have taken a gun safety course, submitted to background checks and allowed the government to keep their fingerprints on file, he said.

  • Robert Armentrout

    I can’t help but wonder if Lt. Gov. Ramsey is in the “mood” to be replaced – if he is growing weary of the organizations who’s support he has actively sought and made promises to in the past then he should be replaced.

    Perhaps I’ve been misinformed but I was always under the impression that when a man claims to hold to certain principles, those principles don’t change with one’s “mood”. Keeping your word is one of tho principles that a real man takes seriously but apparently Lt. Gov. Ramsey doesn’t agree; at least not when big business campaign contributions and future political aspirations are taken into consideration.

    Further, Lt. Gov. Ramsey is either not well educated on the issue or is being purposely obtuse…the “private property” rights of businesses with regards the proposed legislation has already been decided by the courts where cases have been brought from the sixteen states where these laws have been operating.

    For example; in Ramsey Winch Inc. v. Henry, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously ruled that workers in Oklahoma have the constitutional right to keep guns in their vehicles parked on their employers’ parking lots and another federal appeals court recently upheld the right of an employee in Colorado to keep his gun in his locked car at work. That case was based on a specific state law allowing people to store guns in their locked cars—even at work.

    When it comes to property given to business use where the public (customers, employees, etc) is invited (and even desired) to be, The cry of “private property rights” coming from Lt Gov. Ramsey’s and other republican “leaders” rings very hollow.

  • mickeywhite

    “Private Property and Freedom are Inseparable” – George Washington
    “Property Must Be Secure or Liberty Can Not Exist” – John Adams

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