Subject: Bill Lee indicates handgun permit holders are not welcome in "his" Capitol

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January 17, 2019

Bill Lee as Tennessee next “Establishment” Governor.

In 2010, Bill Haslam promised Tennesseans and specifically members of the Tennessee Firearms Association that he would sign constitutional carry if that legislation was put on his desk. He then worked hard it appears to make sure that his loyal minions in the Legislature never allowed him to be held accountable to that promise.

A few years ago, the Tennessee Legislature decided after years of pressure to remove the signs that prohibited Tennessee’s handgun permit holders from carrying their handguns in the Legislature. The problem was that some of the Legislative work took place in a subterranean environment known as “Legislative Plaza”, the most significant actions took place in the halls and legislative chambers in the Capitol. Governor Haslam refused to allow any civilians to have their firearms in their possession while in the Capitol which also meant that they would not be armed going to and from the Capitol from their cars which often had to be parked many blocks from the Capitol.

As we worked through 2018, Bill Lee the candidate initially took the position when asked about his position on letting citizens carry guns openly or concealed without a permit (that is, “constitutional carry”) that he did not support it. Reports were, which are recorded, that he said his local sheriff (who is now appointed as one of Lee’s most powerful commissioners) had told him that citizens carrying guns without state issued permits was a bad idea. But, there was enough negative response and push back from voters to that statement that Bill Lee later is reported to have taken the position that Bill Haslam did and assured voters ambiguously that if the Legislature passed constitutional carry that he would sign it. Of course, Lee has just appointed as his new commissioner over the Department of Safety and Homeland Security the former sheriff who “poo-pooed” the idea of constitutional carry previously.

Now, in another Haslam 2.0 moment, Bill Lee has announced without details that he is going to continue Bill Haslam’s decision to ban handgun permit holders from being armed in the Capitol even though they will be allowed (not necessarily welcomed) in the Legislature’s Cordell Hull office building.

Do Tennessee’s firearms owners, permit holders, and 2nd Amendment supporters have a strong advocate in the office of Governor for the next few years? Well, as with his other recent announcements and actions, there is increasing evidence that although the name will change on the door that the anti-2nd Amendment policies ultimately will not.

Oh, and what about the “Ten for Tenn” campaign promises on his website that indirectly referenced how Lee was promising to be a strong protector of constitutional rights? It went away too - almost as soon as he won the election if not before.

The future is not certain but it is certainly not much brighter under a "Governor Lee" than it has been for the constitution or gun owners under a disappointing Governor Haslam.  Sure, Lee may have been a less offensive choice than many of the other options, but that does not mean that constitutionally conservative voters or citizens should anticipate or assume that he will be moving - at all - from the abysmal path that the state was on under Bill Haslam on constitutional or truly conservative issues. Of course, Big Business and the Chamber of Commerce appear ready to celebrate.

Hold on to your guns and perhaps even your money, because the Establishment resumes work with the new Version 2.0 Governor next week and it does not appear that constitutionally limited stewardship is a core priority of what we have or will be seeing.

John Harris
Executive Director

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