Haslam willing to entertain guns-in-lots edit

Governor says tinkering with year's most controversial gun law may be in order

Gov. Bill Haslam wants to close the books on gun legislation in 2014, but said Monday he may renege on that undertaking in considering whether to reopen the hotly contested guns-in-lots law next year.

Haslam told The Nashville Post he and his administration have yet to decide what to do about a recent legal opinion from the state’s top lawyer which pokes a hole in the state’s newest GOP-led gun law allowing gun owners to legally stow firearms in their vehicles.

“We haven’t sat down and decided if something will happen this year. And I actually haven’t had that conversation with the lieutenant governor either, in terms of whether he’ll bring up something this year or not,” Haslam said.

“Ron and I will have that conversation sometime probably this fall about whether that’s the right thing to do or not,” he added.

The opinion by Attorney General Bob Cooper suggests the law won’t prevent employers from firing employees who legally store their firearms in their vehicle parked on work property, which flies in the face of what Republicans in the legislature had intended the law do.

Haslam told reporters in May the state has done “all we need to, at least for now,” on changing the state’s gun laws and said he did not want to see more changes come next year.

“If it was my preference, then there wouldn’t be any gun legislation brought up in the next session. Now, obviously, you’ve got 132 people (legislators) who get to decide what they do. But for me, the status quo would be acceptable,” he said at the time.  

Ramsey’s office expects someone in the legislature will push to correct the language, although the lieutenant governor doesn’t plan to sponsor that measure himself, according to his spokesman.

“We obviously think the legislation that passed was sufficient,” said Adam Kleinheider, Ramsey’s spokesman. “But because of the attorney general’s opinion, legislation will likely be introduced and the lieutenant governor will likely vote for it.”

The Senate’s most powerful Republican, Ramsey — who ultimately sponsored the measure — has said the opinion “muddied the waters” on his bill, which had included a letter signed by him and others in the Senate clarifying the intent of the legislation was not to allow employers to fire employees for exercising the law.

The so-called guns-in-lots measure has put Republicans in an awkward standoff over the past two years between two key constituencies: the business community and the gun rights advocates.