In response to House Speaker Beth Harwell's press conference this week outlining her 2014 legislative priorities, the Tennessee Firearms Association (TFA) said it is "demanding that Tennessee firearms owners have their voices heard during the next legislative session."
TFA's Executive Director John Harris said, "The lack of attention to firearms-related issues on the 2014 Republican-controlled legislative agenda did not go unnoticed.
"It is shameful that the Republican establishment leadership plans to continue ignoring the constitutionally protected rights of law abiding gun owners including the right to defend themselves and their families against criminals. The cold shoulder given to conservative grassroots groups, including TFA, shows a lack of constitutional leadership by those in power and is simply unacceptable."
The group said, "Observers may conclude that Speaker Harwell is taking her anti-gun marching orders from Governor Haslam who was previously a member of 'Mayors Against Guns', an organization run by NYC's Mayor Bloomberg. It does not go without notice that Governor Haslam was a member of Bloomberg's team up until he decided he wanted to run for the office of governor of Tennessee when he suddenly joined the NRA apparently thinking that was all he needed to do to make Tennesseans think that he had become a supporter of their constitutionally protected rights.
Mr. Harris said, "Obviously the sabotage to last year's 'safe commute' bill under the direction of Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey needs to be repaired, but in coming weeks TFA will be announcing our 2014 legislative agenda to expand the rights of gun owners across Tennessee."
He said the 2013 'safe commute' bill was sponsored by Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey "purportedly to allow employees to store firearms in their personal vehicles while at work. However the severely flawed bill may actually subject employees to certain liabilities, including termination and possibly criminal prosecution according to the TFA and a subsequent opinion by Tennessee's Attorney General. TFA advised legislators in writing of significant flaws in the Ramsey bill and had assisted in writing corrective amendments but House leadership, acting under Speaker Harwell and Rep. McCormick, swiftly killed all the amendments without any substantive debate or consideration.
"The 'safe commute' issue has been debated at least five years in the Tennessee legislature and the issues should have been well known to most legislators. This issue was one of the factors behind the TFA's efforts, in unison with several other grassroots groups, to successfully target and remove Rep. Debra Maggart, the former Republican Caucus Whip, during the 2012 Republican primary. Maggart had made statements to TFA's leadership that Republican leadership in the General Assembly did not want to pursue firearms issues during election years because they felt that standing up for the rights of citizens under the Second Amendment would be bad for their chances to elect more Republicans.
"From Speaker Harwell's statements this week, it appears that Republican leadership still continue to view the lives of citizens and their constitutionally protected rights as an issue having negative political significance and not matters of a high constitutional priority or even significant to the ability of citizens to defend themselves against criminals."
The Tennessee Firearms Association was founded in 1995 "to defend the right to keep and bear arms and to educate the citizenry on the responsible use, ownership and carrying of firearms. The TFA is Tennessee's only no-compromise gun group."