State Attorney General Agrees with TFA that Ron Ramsey’s Safe Commute law is NOT SAFE
Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey started 2013 with the apparent goal of demonstrating once and for all that he is a champion of the 2nd Amendment and the darling of the constitutional conservatives in Tennessee. He personally introduced and carried SB0142 which is commonly called the “parking lot” bill. It was bad the moment it was introduced and never got any better. It was a bad bill. It is a bad law. It must be fixed but that will take new legislation in another year.
Throughout the 2013 Legislative Session, TFA issued press releases, news stories and other information to legislators and the public warning that the 2013 “parking lot” bill that was being rammed through the Tennessee Legislature by Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey and Rep. Jeremy Faison was a clear and present danger to your rights. Indeed, even the two sponsors did not fully agree in their public statements about what the intent and effect of the law was. To his credit, Rep. Faison was more accurate.
On May 28, the Tennessee Attorney General issued Opinion 13-41 confirming several of the critical flaws that TFA members across the state were concerned about and asking the legislators to fix before passing this law. These pleas fell on intentionally deaf ears because Lt. Gov. Ramsey had put out “the word” that this bill was going to pass “as it was written” with no amendments. And, he had the NRA’s new lobbyist in Tennessee rubber stamping that order.
So what has the attorney general said in Opinion 13-41? Here are the high points from the attorney general’s own summary (the entire opinion is on the link).
1. Does 2013 Tenn. Pub. Acts, ch. 16 (“Chapter 16”) prohibit an employer from terminating an at-will employee who brings a firearm or firearm ammunition onto the employer’s property?
2. Does Chapter 16 apply to a handgun carry permit holder operating a privately-owned motor vehicle that has been leased, rented, or borrowed by the permit holder?
3. Under the provisions of Chapter 16, does the permit holder violate the requirement that the firearm or firearm ammunition be “kept from ordinary observation” when a parking lot security camera records him or her placing the firearm or firearm ammunition into a nonobservable location in the vehicle?
4. Would Chapter 16 authorize a handgun carry permit holder to transport and store both a firearm and firearm ammunition in the permit holder’s vehicle?
1. No. Chapter 16 does not impact the employer/employee relationship.
As TFA said before it was voted on - the bill does NOT remove all risk of criminal prosecution. The bill does NOTHING to protect your job. The legislators knew or were on notice of these problems and those who did vote to pass it voted for it knowing that these serious problems existed which created numerous criminal traps and risks to your jobs. The NRA patted them on the back and encouraged them to pass it just as Lt. Gov. Ramsey wanted.
Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey has issued a response to the Attorney’s General’s opinion regarding the many serious flaws in “his” parking lot law:
“The Attorney General’s analysis ignores the clear legislative intent of the law. Tennessee’s status as an at-will employment state is crucial to its economic success. It was never the intent of the law to disturb that status.
The General Assembly created a clear statutory right allowing permit holders to lawfully keep a firearm stored in their car while at work. Any employer explicitly terminating a permit holder for keeping a gun locked in his car would violate the state’s clear public policy, opening himself or herself up to legal action.
The Attorney General is entitled to his opinion but it does not change the General Assembly’s intent or the law.”
This statement is troublesome because it raises some serious questions.
First, Ramsey says in the first paragraph that it was “never” the intent of the legislation to “disturb” the employment at will doctrine. Then, in the second paragraph, Ramsey asserts that it was the legislative intent to disturb (override) the employment at will doctrine by the passage of this law. Those two statements cannot logically or rationally co-exist.
Second, it demonstrates that the Lt. Gov. does not really understand the concept of “legislative intent” and how its applied. Ramsey seems to apply it as sort of a “listen to what I meant, not what I said” kind of theory. While that might work in kindergarten, that would be clearly inappropriate for governments to use in crafting laws. Legislatures are to write their laws clearly. The failure to do so renders them vague and thus unconstitutional. The courts may attempt to determine “legislative intent” where legislation is ambiguous, or does not appear to clearl address a particular issue, or even when it appears that there is a drafting error. When the language used in a law is not ambiguous, it must be applied by the courts as written and there is no inquiry into “legislative intent”.
One has to ask given the plain language of the law that he wrote and the attorney general’s explanation of it in response to the questions that were asked, whether Lt. Gov. Ramsey and others who have proudly “boasted” of this law as being good for citizens really understand what an atrocious law it is? If they do not, serious inquiry must be made by their respective constituents because that lack of capacity and comprehension may indicate a risk that other legislative functions at similarly at risk of serious error. If Lt. Gov. Ramsey does clearly understand the law but represents its effect to be contrary to that accurately reported by the Attorney General, then it may be appropriate to ask of him “why, why would he not accurately represent the law that he wrote?”
What does this mean for Tennesseans? DO NOT RELY ON THE RON RAMSEY PARKING LOT LAW !!! It puts you at risk of criminal prosecution and loss of employment!!!
TFA will be releasing in June a report on the 2013 legislative session on 2nd Amendment legislation. Please watch for it.
TFA BUSHMASTER GIVEAWAY
Tennessee Firearms Association BUSHMASTER AR15 GIVEAWAY!!
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You do not have to be a TFA member to participate - but we would appreciate your decision to join, renew or extend your membership.
Here is how to sign up for your chance in the drawing!!
1. Forward this email to your friends and everyone on your email lists! (Really—the more participation in this event the great the chance we will have more.)
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3. Chip in a few dollars to help support the promotion and TFA!!! (NOT required to enter the giveaway but we really do appreciate the support)
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Our rights under the 2nd Amendment and even the Bill of Rights are not safe in Tennessee! We must act with force and determination to protect, preserve and restore our rights!!!!