Subject: 2nd Amendment bills on civil immunity, eliminating permitting fees heard in Legislative subcommittees on February 25

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February 26, 2020                 

Several bills addressing 2nd Amendment issues were heard on February 25, 2020, and involved extensive comments and debate from subcommittee members which reveal both support for 2nd Amendment as well as deep rooted misunderstandings of the purpose of the 2nd Amendment.

February 25, 2020, was a revealing day in the Legislature for some of the bills that Tennessee Firearms Association is monitoring. Some good news, some just worthy of closer observation and some suggesting that a few state legislators really don't need to be serving on a committee addressing "constitutional" protections.

First, HB2660 (Rep. Chris Todd) is a bill that is designed to strengthen Tennessee's civil immunity laws relative to self-defense events which is needed since the civil immunity provisions in several other states are much more protective of the crime victim who is forced to use self-defense. That bill was heard in the House Civil Justice Subcommittee on Tuesday which is chaired by Chairman Mike Carter. The bill requires a stay of a civil lawsuit if there is a self defense situation which involves a possible or ongoing criminal action until the criminal action is concluded. There is an amendment which rewrites the bill although the amendment is not on the state's website for public inspection (this is a recurring problem in the Legislature where citizens do not have the ability to review amendments to bills before they are presented or in many instances even after they are presented). Chairman Michael Curcio seemed to have problems with the bill as he asked about whether the bill would provide civil immunity or just immunity from civil liability.   Rep. Todd explained that civil immunity is already in current law and all this bill does is limit the ability to go forward on a civil case until the criminal case is resolved. Rep. Carter expressed some concern that the language of the bill, as amended, "wasn't there yet" and perhaps needed to be revised or amended before proceeding. Jason Sparks misclassified this as a "stand your ground law" and spoke against the bill insisting that the civil lawsuits be allowed to proceed even if criminal charges are pending - which is a position which completely ignores the constitutional rights regarding an accused's rights relative to self-incrimination. Democrats Bill Beck and Bo Mitchell spoke against the bill. Ultimately, Chairman Carter spoke in favor of the bill and the critical need to stay the civil action because failing to do so risks impairment and infringement of the accused's Fifth Amendment rights. TFA is looking forward to working with Chairman Carter and Rep. Todd to get a bill that TFA can continue to support. The bill was taken off notice and did not proceed forward at this time.

A second significant development involved HB2027 (Chairman William Lamberth) which was also amended prior to discussion in the Constitutional Protections and Sentencing Subcommittee (again, the amendment was not on the state's website prior to the hearing and does not appear there at this time). This amended bill, as discussed by Chairman Lamberth, has the effect of deleting the handgun permit fees on the "enhanced permits" effective January 1, 2021 and converts all permits issued or renewed after that date to lifetime permits. Of note, Chairman Lamberth expressed his hope that at some point the Legislature would adopt constitutional carry and noted that even if Tennessee adopts constitutional carry that we would still need permits (e.g., for reciprocity). The original bill had a fiscal note of approximately $18 million in loss of revenue from permit holders and the amended bill will also likely have a substantial negative fiscal note which likely means that the bill will have problems unless Gov. Lee includes this change in his budget. Rep. Bo Mitchell claimed to be a 2nd Amendment supporter but his comments made it clear that he does not truly understand the 2nd Amendment or the phrase "shall not be infringed." Rep. Paul Sherrell spoke in favor of the bill noting that the "gun is not the problem". The bill was adopted on a voice vote and sent to the full Judiciary committee.

Third was HB2113 (Rep. Rusty Grills) which would make the Tennessee "enhanced" handgun permit or a "concealed" handgun permit a valid form of state recognized identification. Again, Rep. Bo Mitchell spoke against the bill further exhibiting for the third time in the same hearings that he should be removed at least from this committee because he seems to lack fundamental understandings of the scope and purpose of the 2nd Amendment. The bill passed the subcommittee and moves forward to full judiciary. As an aside, congratulations to Rep. Rusty Grills as this may have been his first bill presentation.

It is important for TFA's members and supporters to understand the details regarding the progress of these bills.  One thing that complicates that important task is that the Legislature's current procedures do not require that amendments to bills be posted on the state's website in advance of being presented to the committees and subcommittees for consideration.  When that happens, it creates a false sense of "status quo" relative to the bills because as 2 of these bills reflect, these amendments are often presented at the last minute, with no public notice and will often either rewrite the entire or substantial parts of the bills.  If this is concern to you, you need to be calling your state legislators and/or writing them to insist that all amendments to all bills (including amended fiscal notes) be posted on the state's website at least a few days prior to being presented in any committee. In making these calls and writing these letters do not omit sending calls and letters to the leadership which would be Lt. Governor Randy McNally as well as Speaker Cameron Sexton.

You can see and share the TFA's News Post on this topic.

John Harris
Executive Director

Joining and supporting TFA is an investment in the fight to restore our constitutional rights and to fight against politicians who are willing to sell their votes and your rights to whichever business interest gives them the most money!

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