Things are getting curiouser and curiouser at the Tennessee General Assembly, and yesterday's blow-up was one of the oddest moments in recent state history. Sit back, folks, I'll try to sum up without omitting too many of the usual suspects or three part harmonies you've come to expect from the nation's most inept state legislature.
You may have heard about our "guns in parking lots" bill here in Tennessee. That's a measure that would prevent employers from punishing workers who leave firearms in their vehicles on company property, regardless of that company's rules about bring weapons to work. The Republicans who sponsored said legislation thought this was a great way to pander to the NRA and the Tennessee Firearms Association, which is also a great way to stay in office in this state. If the NRA's happy with the job you're doing, you tend to get reelected a lot. Funny how that works.
Anyway, some folks thought the prospect of employees showing up for work with loaded weapons at their disposal was a bad idea. Those folks included the Chamber of Commerce and our own (very) pro-business governor, as well as sane people who don't think everyone needs a gun in every situation. Suddenly, what seemed like a 'no-brainer' of a bill to Republicans, one that would satisfy the NRA and the state's gun nuts, was caught in the middle of a debate about property and business owners' rights to set company policy on their own property. Property owners verses gun owners... What's a good legislator to do?
Well, the obvious answer when faced with a tough call in Nashville is to mimic the town's football team and send in the punter. Boot the bill down the calendar to the next session of the legislature and hope like hell it dies in committee or something. So that's what the GOP's House members did yesterday. And thus began a shit storm of Biblical proportions.
When House Republicans realized the Republican governor of the state AND the business lobby opposed the new guns-in-the-trunk-of-the-disgruntled-worker bill, the last thing they wanted to do was bring the bill up for an on-the-record floor vote, because if they had voted FOR the bill they would catch hell from the governor and the Chamber of Commerce, and had they voted against the bill they would face crucifixion by the NRA. Literally. Crucifixion.
As soon as the Republican controlled committee moved to table the bill (punt's away!) the Democrats in the House, who had been grinning ear to ear over the prospect of putting their GOP counterparts on record (and thus in the crosshairs of one group or the other) went crazy, threatening to bring lawsuits if proper procedure wasn't followed. At the same time, the Executive Director of the Tennessee Firearms Association sent a blistering email to his membership urging them to go all Roman Empire-ish on the gutless GOP leadership who had abandoned the guns-in-cars bill.
Here's a quote from Executive Director John Harris' email in which he blamed House Republican Caucus Chair Debra Maggart for the bill's delay, courtesy of The Tennessean (motto: "We're not making this shit up! This guy is calling for crucifixions!") :
“Rep. Debra Maggart’s political career needs to end much as the Romans crucified criminals — not just to end her tenure but as a glaring example to other Republicans that you cannot take the grassroots groups or the rights of citizens for granted,” he wrote, adding, “it is time to display a used crucifix at the entrance to the General Assembly as a warning.”
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