The Commercial Appeal

Haslam unsure of veto on gun measure

Senate bill lacks school exemption

- By Richard Locker locker@commercial­ 615-255-4923

NASHVILLE — Gov. Bill Haslam said Wednesday he doesn’t know whether he would veto a bill being fast-tracked through the Senate to let handguncar­ry permit holders keep guns in their cars on any public or private parking lot, even though it doesn’t exempt school and college campuses as he’s always insisted.

The bill won approval in the Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday without a dissenting vote, despite the objections of college administra­tors and business leaders.

Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey, who is sponsoring the bill, has said he wants the Senate to quickly pass the bill next week so that the media won’t spend the legislativ­e session reporting on the issue as occurred in the last two legislativ­e sessions.

“My goal is to pass this next week in our committee, pass it the next week on the floor so two weeks from now there won’t be anything to ask after that,” Ramsey, R-Blountvill­e, said last week.

Just before Tuesday’s committee meeting, the governor summoned committee members to his office to discuss the bill and express his concerns about allowing guns on K-12 school and college campuses. But Ramsey told him the Senate was going ahead with his bill, which contains no exceptions to where permit holders can keep guns in their cars other than places prohibited by federal law and the driveways of detached, single- family houses. Currently, property owners can ban others from bringing guns onto their property.

Minutes later, the Judiciary Committee approved the bill 8-0, with only Sen. Ophelia Ford, D-Memphis, abstaining.

Speaking to reporters Wednesday at Lipscomb University where he helped launch a leadership education program called Leadership Tennessee, the governor said he called the Tuesday meeting to talk about how Ramsey’s bill alters current law. “I’ve said all along that educationa­l institutio­ns are a concern of mine, so I’m trying to understand what’s the reality now and how this would change it.”

He said that until the meeting, he was unaware of a provision in current law that says it’s not an offense for “a nonstudent adult to possess a firearm, if the firearm is contained within a private vehicle

operated by the adult and is not handled by the adult, or by any other person acting with the expressed or implied consent of the adult, while the vehicle is on school property.”

However, that provision says it applies to a particular subsection of the statute that otherwise prohibits weapons of any kind on school grounds.

Asked whether he would veto a bill that did not allow public and private schools and universiti­es to ban all guns from their campuses, Haslam said: “I don’t know that. It’s too early to say. I don’t know exactly what the bill will look like. And I’m still learning what the reality is now.”

The bill must also win House approval before it’s sent to the governor for final action, and no committee or floor votes have been scheduled in the House.

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