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VOL. 39 | NO. 10 | Friday, March 6, 2015

Haslam: Don't rush gun bills before NRA meeting in Nashville

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NASHVILLE (AP) - Gov. Bill Haslam on Wednesday urged fellow Republicans in the Tennessee General Assembly not to let the upcoming convention of the National Rifle Association in Nashville influence their consideration of a slew of bills seeking to loosen state gun laws.

The governor has flagged several legislative proposals among the latest barrage of guns bills as raising concerns. And lawmakers hoping to curry favor with the NRA doesn't help, he said.

"I don't think long-term policy should ever be driven by a short-term need," Haslam said. "People should decide, is this good policy for the state or not?"

The NRA's annual meeting is scheduled for the weekend beginning April 10 at Nashville's new convention center. Organizers expect more than 75,000 people to attend.

The arrival of the powerful gun lobby in the state capital has spurred some of the gun legislation, Haslam said.

"It's definitely been motioned by some folks as one of the reasons to speed that along," he said.

Haslam has raised objections about several gun bills pending in the Legislature, including an effort to do away with permit requirements to carry handguns in public and to strip local governments of the power to ban guns in parks, playgrounds and sports fields.

Doing away with permitting requirements would fly in the face of past arguments in support of new laws to allow handguns to be carried in bars and state parks, and to be stored in vehicles parked in employers' parking lots.

"We've passed a lot of laws in this state based on the fact that people with firearms with them had permits and had gone through the education process," Haslam said.

The governor said mayors are sharply divided over efforts to remove local control over guns in parks, but said he hopes he can find a way to craft a compromise. When Haslam was mayor of Knoxville before his election as governor, he supported a 2009 city council vote that kept in place a ban on handguns in some of the city's parks.

The NRA meeting is scheduled to kick off with an event featuring several potential Republican candidates for president, including U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.

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