NASHVILLE, Tenn - Just days into the new state legislative session, guns are already set to be a hot issue. New legislation has been filed that would benefit gun owners, and that includes a proposed compromise on the controversial "Guns in Parking Lots" issue.
Republican State Senator Stacy Campfield of Knoxville is suggesting a "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" approach. For several years state lawmakers have been trying to pass legislation giving employees with carry permits the right to keep guns locked inside their cars at work.
Campfield said his legislation is a compromise between an employee's right to carry a gun, and the property rights of business owners who want to ban guns from their premises. He says, "Business owners can still protect their property. They don't lose that right, but they do not have the ability to ask employees to search their vehicles as a condition of employment."
Employers could still search the employee's vehicle for suspected stolen property, but not for a gun. Campfield says, "(The legislation) pretty much takes away the criminal penalties if by chance they search their vehicle for something else like a stolen goods they could fire the person, but they couldn't search it necessarily for the gun, initially."
"Guns in Trunks" is an issue many lawmakers will privately tell you they'd rather see just go away. How lawmakers react to gun legislation can come with a cost. During the last legislative session, some gun owners accused Republican Representative Debra Maggart of blocking guns in trunks. Maggart accuses the NRA of paying for ads to help defeat her in this year's Republican primary.
Lieutenant Governor Ron Ramsey says it's time to find a compromise. He says, "There are a few issues that have drug on forever and I'd like to put behind us and use some common sense to pass those and one would allow for gun permit holders to keep their fire arms in their locked car. "
House Speaker Beth Harwell sees merit in Senator Campfield's proposal. She set up a small task force to work to find a solution. Harwell says, "He's headed in the right direction in that this state firmly believes in our constitutional right to bare an arm, a gun. We also constitutionally believe in our right to have individual freedom on their own property. "
Campfield says the task force is almost finished with it's work. He says the group has even found a way to eliminate what could be a costly liability for business owners. "We're taking that out to make sure they're not held liable in any way, shape or form for not searching for guns." says Campfield.