Parking lot guns bill withdrawn from House vote

Friday, April 22, 2011, Vol. 35, No. 16

NASHVILLE (AP) — A proposal to give employers immunity from lawsuits if they allow workers to store guns in vehicles parked on company lots was withdrawn Wednesday before a full House vote could take place.

Republican Rep. Joshua Evans of Greenbrier sent the measure back to the House Judiciary Committee because of an earlier promise to return the measure to the panel if any major changes were attached on the floor.

Democratic Rep. Eddie Bass of Prospect proposed an amendment to impose a blanket ban on businesses from prohibiting workers with handgun carry permits to store their weapons in their vehicles.

The business lobby has argued that they should have the property right to refuse guns in their parking lots, but Bass said the same argument could be made for the right to store weapons in cars.

"In my opinion, my vehicle is my personal property," he said.

Evans said the Bass amendment put him in a quandary, because he agrees with the notion that people should "be able to protect themselves on the way to and from work."

But Evans said his proposal is a compromise that would "incentivize" business owners to drop gun bans they might have in place, without forcing the move onto them.

An attempt to kill the Bass amendment received only 35 positive votes in the 99-member chamber, so Evans sent the bill back to committee.

Republican Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey of Blountville has said he prefers going further than the lawsuit immunity proposal, citing the safety record of the state's handgun carry permit holders.

Over the last two years, just 1,600 of about 308,000 permits have been revoked or suspended because of criminal charges or orders of protection in domestic violence cases.

"A gun permit holder should be able to take his gun and leave it in his locked automobile when he goes to work," Ramsey said.

Republican Gov. Bill Haslam has also expressed support for the guns in parking lots measure.