Tennessee kills bill allowing students to keep guns in autos on campus

What’s going on in Tennessee? There was a bill moving through the state legislature in the Volunteer State which would have allowed student permit holders on public college campuses to store their weapons in their cars. But after some of the usual wrangling over amendments, the legislation died a sudden death.

A House subcommittee on Wednesday killed a bill that, as it was amended in the state Senate, would have allowed students to keep guns in their cars on public college campuses in Tennessee…

Sen. Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown, the bill’s Senate sponsor, added an amendment to the Senate version that prohibited any public higher education institution from taking action against an employee or student of the school for transporting and storing a firearm or ammunition “in compliance with” the handgun-carry permit law while using a parking area owned, used or operated by the school…

The subcommittee killed the bill on voice vote after members spoke against the Senate amendment. Rep. Mike Carter, R-Ooltewah, told the bill’s House sponsor, Rep. Judd Matheny, R-Tullahoma, that he supported the original bill because he said it was designed to make it clear that people can have guns in their cars when they pull onto school property to drop off or pick up their children.

But Carter added, “There was a Senate amendment put on this bill. Are you going to add that amendment on? I do not support it; I will not support it,” Carter told Matheny.

There’s got to be more to this story than meets the eye here, though I’m not finding much additional coverage on it yet. The original bill seemed fairly clear when we first heard about it being introduced. If a student or employee of the college held a valid permit they would be allowed to store (not carry) their weapon in their vehicle on campus grounds. It was such a milquetoast proposal that it even specified that the weapon could not be “handled” on the property, but just stored – unloaded – in the usual carrying case. Doesn’t sound particularly controversial, does it?

Everyone involved is claiming that it was the amendment which would forbid “taking action” against anyone doing it which was the poison pill. How did that derail the process? If you’re going to go to the lengths of passing a law making sure that it’s legal, why would there be a problem stopping administrators from punishing people who are following the law? Such a measure might be necessary because of the well known penchant of public schools to make up their own rules and fly by the seat of their pants in the name of political correctness. But even then, you’d think that once the legislature had spoken there wouldn’t be much of a question on that count.

Perhaps running the bill through again without the amendment is good first step. But even if they manage it, we are left wondering what the underlying objections really were. Some of the statements from members in the interview seem to hint at an attitude which runs counter to the entire idea in the first place.

“We think creating greater access to guns on campuses is not a good thing,” DiPietro said after the bill failed. “We work with our employees right now from the standpoint of legislation that’s happened previously, and we just feel like it doesn’t need to expand to our student body.”

Sounds to me like somebody is still locked in the mindset of creating “Gun Free Zones” around all public educational properties. Sadly, history should have shown them that there are two major flaws with that thinking. First, there have been enough shootings in such zones – which might be better named “Safe Shooting Zones for Maniacs” – to show you that the concept doesn’t work. And second, as has been repeatedly stated, you’re passing a law which will only affect people who tend to worry about things like following the law. That’s generally not a description which applies to folks who are inclined to shoot up a school.

I really wasn’t expecting this out of Tennessee. Hopefully they can take another crack at this and do better next time.