By Sabrina Bates
MVP Regional News Editor
Guns and elections are among some of the topics covered in recent proposed legislation by the 113th Tennessee General Assembly. The first week of February was the filing deadline for consideration of new bills by state lawmakers. Legislators are now busy in subcommittee meetings as they wade through more than 3,000 drafted bills in the coming weeks.
Republicans swept both chambers in last year’s election and hold a super-majority in the Tennessee House and Senate.
One proposal enacts a civil liability for entities that prohibit weapons on a property for those who are authorized to carry a handgun. This bill states those who prohibit the possession of firearms are not immune from civil liability with respect to a claim based on the person’s or entity’s adoption of a policy that prohibits weapons on the property. A similar, but contradictory, proposed bill eliminates liability for gun companies, manufacturers, dealers, sellers and ammunition companies when a weapon is used against another to commit a criminal act, unless those representatives were involved in committing the act.
Another proposal, filed by Sen. Frank Niceley of East Tennessee, with a companion bill in the House filed by Rep. Chris Todd of Madison County, lowers the age from 21 to 18 for those wanting to get an enhanced handgun carry permit. If the person applying is a lawful citizen of Tennessee and isn’t prohibited from handgun carry on a state or federal level, an 18-year-old is eligible to receive a handgun carry permit.
Certain restrictions for storing weapons in vehicles on public- and private-school property would still be in place, unless the individual is 18 and older and a veteran, active duty or Reservist with a branch of the United States Armed Forces.
There is pending legislation this session to allow school teachers to conceal carry if they meet training criteria.
If passed, a proposed bill filed by Sen. John Stevens of Huntingdon, would allow hunters to carry a handgun while hunting, as long as the individual does not plan to use the handgun to take game.
Rep. Jay Reedy of Erin introduced legislation that would amend the Tennessee Constitution by deleting a portion of this Article: “That the citizens of this State have a right to keep and to bear arms for their common defense; but the Legislature shall have power, by law, to regulate the wearing of arms with a view to prevent crime.”
Instead, it would read as follows – “That the citizens of this State have a right to keep and to bear arms for their defense.”
A similar proposal would change Tennessee Code Annotated language where handguns are referenced such as “handgun” carry permits to “firearm” carry permits. This bill was proposed by Rep. Rusty Grills of Dyer County.
Another proposed bill would no longer criminalize shooting bears in the state if the shooter feels the bear is a threat to persons or property.
Proposed Election Legislation
Remember last year’s November ballot that included four proposed amendments to the Tennessee Constitution cited verbatim? One proposed bill this year asks to clear up any confusion surrounding language for voters. The legislation is as follows,”Any question submitted to the people must be preceded by a brief summary of the proposal written in a clear and coherent manner using words with common everyday meanings.”
Another proposed bill would allow nursing home residents, inmates not convicted of a felony and other institutionalized facilities residing outside of their home county to vote by absentee ballot.
A bill centered around political party affiliation is also slated for discussion. Under the proposal, signage would be placed at polling locations reminding voters that it is a Class C misdemeanor offense to vote in a political party’s primary without being a bona fide member of that party or to declare allegiance to that political party without the intent to affiliate with that political party.
The Tennessee Democratic Party recently released a press statement declaring it would be more involved with municipal (city) elections in the coming year. The State Party announced it established a non-partisan committee “to better support candidates that embody the principles of the party.”
The City of Jackson will hold municipal elections this year.
In related news, a bill has been proposed allowing counties to choose to hold elections for school superintendents and directors.
See future editions of this publication for more proposed legislation by this year’s state General Assembly.