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Harwell: Guns-in-Lots Not a Top Priority in ‘13

by Andrea Zelinski on September 14, 2012

House Speaker Beth Harwell says she feels little pressure to settle a heated debate over the so-called guns-in-lots bill by next year.

The legislation died this spring after lawmakers could not agree on whether to allow gun owners to stow firearms in their vehicle at their place of work.

“We either can come to the table and work something out that satisfies both interests, or we can’t. And if we can’t, we’ll be back to where we were last session,” Harwell told TNReport Thursday.

“But I have high hopes we’ll be able to work something out,” she added.

The debate over the bill revealed divisions within the GOP-led Legislature and prompted the gun lobby to invest more than $100,000 into unseating a key Republican leader who worked against the bill.

“If we learned anything from last session, we learned that everyone needs to sit down at the table and work together,” said Harwell. “No one can bully. Neither side can push down their agenda at the cost of other agendas and other people’s interests,” she said.

Legislative leaders derailed the bill by sending it to a summer study committee to examine the policy, a maneuver that essentially kills legislation. That group never met over the summer, and Harwell says it won’t try to get together until at least after the November election.

Gun rights advocates have little faith that Republicans will tackle their key issues in good faith next year, said John Harris, executive director of the Tennessee Firearms Association.

“I don’t think that they are looking at the Second Amendment organizations as partners to find solutions but instead are looking at them more as adversaries to appease, to shut us up and throw us a bone right now,” he said.

He said officials with the TFA and the National Firearms Association are already gearing up for the 2014 elections to pressure more incumbents out of office if they snub their noses at the groups’ Second Amendment agenda.

“If their perception is we don’t need to have another 2012 with all this bloodletting, that maybe the NRA and TFA will sit in the corner like we tell them to, that’s an unrealistic expectation to have,” he said.

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