OP-ED: Gov. Lee, VETO PERMITLESS CARRY to Prevent Traumatized Youth Like Me

Opinion by Christian Harrison of Clarksville

Growing up in the south, I got pretty used to guns. They were in the movies I watched, the games I played, and members of my family were not shy about their ownership. Honestly, I’d never feared guns before March 2nd, 2005. Mostly because I had been told they would be the only thing standing between me and a bad guy.

 

But on March 2nd, the bad guy was the one with the gun. On that day, my bus driver, Joyce Gregory, was murdered in front of me, my little brother, and 22 other students in grades from Kindergarten to Senior. It was a smaller county with one school and the bus driver had a lot on her hands, trying to deal with students of all ages. One day, she made the fatal mistake of giving a sophomore student a write-up for some form of smokeless tobacco.

 

I remember that. We were near the center of the small town square in Dover, TN. Mrs. Joyce was not happy, as she had previously gotten onto the students in the back for “dipping” on the bus. If I remember correctly, we pulled over on Main St. near where the Stewart County Clerk is now. She gave at least one student a write-up, which apparently got him in trouble with the school. I was 7 and didn’t care, because it seemed so small when the bigger kids were always getting in trouble for something.

 

It was either the next day or shortly after that I had gotten on the bus like every other day. Dew on the grass tickled my legs as I waited at some time near 5:45. Within 30 minutes we had pulled up to the house of Jason Clinard.

 

This is where my memory gets fuzzy. I remember pulling up to the gravel driveway where I heard Mrs. Joyce managed to get out “Good Morn-” and then it went fuzzy for about 20 seconds. I heard 3 gunshots and when I came out of hiding I looked around and didn’t see anything at first.

 

But what I did see has been burned into my brain. What’s amazing is that the shooter immediately ran and never saw what he did. He never saw what my brother and I had to see in front of us. At 7 years old I watched a woman’s life violently drain from her eyes, blood drip from her lips as she used the last of her strength to shut the door between the killer and us. As she slumped in her chair, she looked up in the mirror and I swear I saw the life leave her eyes. There has not been an instance of gun violence since where I haven’t been reminded of her face.

 

After Mrs. Joyce had passed on, her foot came off of the brake. The bus began rolling down a hill and was it not for one high schooler, we likely would have crashed into some woods in rural Stewart County. Luckily we hit a telephone pole and ran into an old couple’s house once we climbed out of the back of the bus. An hour or two later we were home safe, sound, and set up for a life of paranoia.

 

The kid had access to an unlocked nightstand where his father kept a .45. As someone who had clearly exhibited a history of mental health issues in a foster home environment, that gun should have been locked away from any children. Jason Clinard killed a woman because he was severely ill and had access to an unrestricted firearm.

 

I don’t like to tell this story, being so macabre. However, gun de-regulation, such as permitless carry, will only lead to new generations of traumatized youth like I was. Kids will continue to see people they look up to bleed and die until we get serious about gun reform. Who has to die at the hands of a mentally ill adult?

 

To Governor Bill Lee, I mainly just have questions. Do you think that mentally ill teenagers, convicted felons, and the mean-spirited should be allowed to carry guns anywhere they please? If the answer is yes, then I have one follow-up. Who do YOU have to watch die before you start caring about the lives and safety of the people in this great state?

Joyce Gregory was always so nice to all the kids. Stewart County was never that populated and she would help out with the local Boy Scouts. This woman was a grandmother, a wife, an aunt, and so important to so many people. She mattered, may she rest.

Pody and Sexton’s Abortion Hypocrisy

“These are the same legislators who are proposing bills that allow people to have FULL CONTROL over the FIREARMS they own.” Tory Mills of Tennessee Advocates for Planned Parenthood on the hypocrisy of Sen Mark Pody and Jerry Sexton’s bill that allows men to sue women for having an abortion.

PODCAST available on Apple Podcasts, and wherever else you like to listen.

 

VIDEO: REP. FAISON Invokes MLK During Pro-Gun Rally Resolution

“Let’s not channel MLK, who was about nonviolence, in the same sentence as a rally for WEAPONS OF DEATH.”

Rep. Antonio Parkinson & Rep. Mitchell respond as GOP Caucus leader Jeremy Faison invokes MLK & calls AR-15’s “weapons of LIFE” as he honors Richmond’s anti-gun safety law rally.

Rep. Larry Miller was also booed, in a break from House decorum.

And Rep. Andy Holt outrageously wondered why we don’t see guns being a problem with 393 million of them in circulation in the USA.

First a Permitless Hog Farm, Now An AR-15 Giveaway – Is Rep. Holt’s Fundraiser “Door Prize” Legal?

Rep. Andy Holt (R-Dresden) is hosting a “Hogfest and Turkey Shoot” campaign fundraiser at his home this Saturday, and has announced he will be giving away an AR-15 Assault Rifle – the weapon used in tragedy after tragedy in America – as a “door prize”… but is it legal?

That Holt would give away a weapon that even NASCAR won’t feature in ads anymore despite the message it sends to those concerned about the gun death crisis in America should come as no surprise – he is after all the sponsor of a recent bill to weaken our permitting system in Tennessee to make it possible for people to get a permit to carry virtually anywhere in our state without ever actually firing one on a range, simply by taking a quick online class.

But is his giveaway actually legal? It would appear the answer is no.

The Secretary of State’s website is very clear: Raffles like the one described in Holt’s event – where people pay to get in, and are entered to win a prize – are considered gambling in Tennessee. While it may not be exactly like slots or poker which casinos such as this is story offer, the base mechanics are the same. Paying in an amount of money for the chance to get something back. Residents of Tenessee can go out of state to gamble, but inside the state, gambling is not permitted by any organization that isn’t a charity and hasn’t been pre-approved. Again, residents can perhaps use a site like Paybyphonebillcasino.uk as it operates outside the state but people within the State can’t set up gambling or gambling-adjacent options without risking the brunt of the law.

From the Secretary of State’s site:

Raffles and games of chance are considered gambling, which is prohibited in Tennessee. However, certain charitable organizations are allowed to apply to have one raffle, reverse raffle, cakewalk or cakewheel each year if that event is conducted in accordance with the procedures set forth in the Tennessee Charitable Gaming Implementation Law. This is why many people would look to the speedy casino cashouts hosted online for their gambling fix instead of set institutions.

Only a qualified 501(c)(3) or 501(c)(19) organization that has submitted an application to the Division of Charitable Solicitations and Gaming and that has been approved by the Tennessee General Assembly can hold a raffle.

When asked about this on Twitter, Holt responded that the AR-15 was a “doorprize”:

But the SOS site makes no exception for such semantic arguments. What Holt describes in his event post is pretty clearly not allowed by law.

Again, from the SOS site:

No. An event is considered a raffle if someone must pay for a chance to win a prize and would be a violation of law. It does not matter that the payment is called a “donation.”

When asked if he had applied and been approved, Holt gave no answer.

There is even a question on the site itself about exceptions for political campaigns, to which the answer is very clearly also a resounding NO:

Are political candidates and campaigns allowed to conduct raffles or other games of chance?
No. The law only allows qualified 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(19) organizations to hold gaming events. Political candidates and campaigns for public office are not considered 501(c)(3) or 501(c)(19) tax exempt organizations… If someone is required to pay for a chance to win a prize, it is considered a raffle. Only qualified and approved 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(19) organizations may hold a raffle. It does not matter that the payment is called a “donation.”

As for the consequences, the site has this to say:

If the Division of Charitable Solicitations is notified of an unapproved event, the Division will notify the local district attorney general. Conducting an unapproved game of chance may be a violation of the criminal gaming statute, and local law enforcement has jurisdiction to investigate and prosecute the individuals responsible for the event… Please contact the district attorney for the county in which you believe the game of chance is taking place or contact the Division of Charitable Solicitations at (615) 741-2555 and the Division will notify the appropriate authorities.

In this case, the District Attorney to holler at would be Tommy Thomas: (731) 364-5513

And here’s how to holler at the Division of Charitable Donations: (615) 741-2555 & charitable.solicitations@tn.gov

It’s worth pointing out that Holt is no stranger to breaking the law and doing things without a permit – he was previously found to be operating a pig farm without one.
He also recently mocked a Republican County commissioner who criticized disgraced former speaker Glen Casada, teasing him about beastiality (all class that Andy!) – and called a constituent who disagreed with him “mentally ill”.
We have heard from someone who was able to get Rep. Holt on the phone, who says she asked him if there is a way to register for the door prizes without buying a ticket for admission. Apparently Holt said he would get back to her, and hung up on her.
The charitable gaming office within the secretary of state’s office said they would look into it and get back to us, but when we followed up we were told all investigations are private until the investigations are closed, and that even whether or not there is an open investigation will not be disclosed to the public until after the investigation is closed.
Now you might be thinking – it’s just a raffle, who cares? And you’d have a point.
But the bigger point here is that laws exist for a reason, and laws that apply to the rest of us should apply equally to lawmakers themselves – otherwise we live in a two-tiered society, which is exactly the opposite of the “all men are created equal” principle.
Surely a “constitutional conservative” like Rep. Holt wouldn’t want to violate that bedrock principle just to give away an AR-15 and trigger some libs, would he?
As for the AR-15 itself, we’ll freely admit we find the idea of giving one away when they have been the source of so much heartbreak and misery feels irresponsible and heartless. We support the 2nd Amendment, but even Justice Scalia said it didn’t allow for “UNLIMITED” right to own and keep any weapon, anywhere, any time.
And even the maker of the AR-15 believed they shouldn’t be in civilian hands. The safety of our children should take precedence.

Instead of giving away AR-15’s at campaign fundraisers, it would be nice to see Holt working to make Tennessee a safer place, especially considering how unsafe a state we are when it comes to gun deaths, especially of women and children.
If you agree, or even just think laws should apply to lawmakers, Holler at Rep. Holt HERE – or on twitter HERE.

REP. FLEISCHMANN: “I Think There Are Enough Laws On The Books Dealing With Guns”

In an interview this week, Rep. Chuck Fleischmann made it clear he won’t back any common sense gun safety regulations as he spouted NRA talking points. Fleischmann has an A-rating from the NRA and as Ramsey Cohen says “Has taken thousands of dollars from them in the past”.

Watch and share the video below, and holler at Chuck HERE.

NEW: “I think there are enough laws on the books dealing with guns.”@RepChuck Fleischmann won’t support magazine size limits, universal background checks, etc. – instead spouts NRA talking points.

RELATED: Chuck has an A-rating from the NRA, as @ramseycohen points out here. pic.twitter.com/Xu2oQridsU

— The Tennessee Holler (@TheTNHoller) September 5, 2019

New TN GOP Caucus Chair Faison Downplays Gun Deaths, Misstates *Fact* About Guns (Again)

In a week in which America was yet again rocked by gun violence, newly minted Tennessee House Republican Party caucus chair Rep. Jeremy Faison has taken to Twitter to minimize the problem of gun deaths in America, using misstated facts to do it.

“Gun-related deaths are no where even close to the problem that liberals make them out to be,” Faison told a commenter:

Faison’s tweet came as a reply to a response to an earlier tweet where he had posted “pesky facts” above a post from @RealSaavedra, who listed other causes of death in America on a per day basis, including abortion, heart disease, cancer and more.

It’s a familiar talking point in anti-gun safety law conservative circles:

Faison keyed in on the “All Rifles” item at the bottom, which makes the point that only 1 American dies each day by rifle on average.

What this widely circulated statistic obviously and intentionally leaves out is all the deaths and shootings caused by non-rifles. In actuality, Every day, 100 Americans are killed with guns and hundreds more are shot and injured. Over 100,000 Americans are shot on average each year, far more than other countries – which means Faison turning the stat for “rifle deaths” into “gun-related deaths” in his follow-up tweet was either intentionally misleading, or yet another big mistake on Faison’s part.

It wouldn’t be the first flub from Faison in which he made up his own gun-related *fact* to help prove his ultimate point, which is apparently that that guns in America are really no big deal.

This past session Faison was on a committee that passed a gun permit-weakening bill which made it possible for Tennesseans to get a permit to carry a gun nearly everywhere in the state simply by taking a quick course online, without ever even having to fire one on a range. In addition to online courses, they could read blogs about such topics as 300 blk vs 5.56 NATO, which might be relevant for learning about the different types of ammo used for different guns, helping form a better understanding of gun use.

After fact-filled, emotional testimony from witnesses including Beth Joslin Roth of the Safe Tennessee Project, who demonstrated clearly that stronger gun laws do in fact save lives, Faison confidently informed Beth that despite all the numbers she presented to the contrary tighter gun laws don’t lead to fewer gun deaths – because if they did, the Bahamas wouldn’t have so many homicides, since according to Faison you can get the death penalty for illegally carrying a gun there.

As it turned out, we looked into it, and that *fact* was not true. Nobody has been put to death in the Bahamas in many years, and certainly not for having a gun.

Where had Jeremy heard this, you might ask? According to him, he heard it from a “Bohemian” he knew in college. (He meant Bahamian. Sigh.)

To his minimal credit, he apologized and retracted his *fact*. But for a man who sits on a committee that makes laws in Tennessee to be presenting false information that was so loosely sourced is a pretty devastating indictment not only of Faison, but of the level of accountability GOP Supermajority lawmakers are currently facing in Tennessee.

Inevitably, that permit-weakening law passed, and Faison has since been elected chair of the TN GOP caucus. But one thing hasn’t changed: Faison is still making up *facts* about guns to minimize a very real, very tragic problem, which makes all of us, and our children, much less safe.

Again, studies of the issue in general have shown repeatedly there is a relationship between stricter gun laws and a lower amount of guns, and gun deaths. Even Justice Scalia said you can support the 2nd Amendment while still supporting some common-sense gun safety laws. Moreover, more people need to understand gun safety and gun laws as it appears that not everyone does. For example, the gun laws for Wisconsin residents aren’t the same for Tennessee residents. Therefore people have to look up and understand those laws too, especially if they are planning on taking a gun out of their state. It is just one of the many factors one must consider before buying a gun, others being the intended use and if you are prepared to use them safely (more info here).

If you have a problem with state legislators putting out false information about serious issues like gun safety, then make sure they hear it. Holler at Faison HERE.

Coffee County GOP Chair Posts Pro-Gun Meme Threatening “Civil War”, Hanging

Coffee County Republican chairman Richard Brooks has posted – and now deleted – a meme on Facebook threatening “civil war” and to “hang corrupted politicians in front of the White House” if any politicians continue to talk about gun control.

Coffee is the same county where controversial DA Craig Northcott – who has been openly Islamophobic and Homophobic and refuses to recognize the authority of the Supreme Court – presides. Brooks has been a vocal supporter of Northcott in the past.

Brooks has removed the post. He owns a gun shop and range in Manchester.

In response to it, the Coffee County Young Republicans have already released a statement to distance themselves from it, saying:

“This post does not reflect the views of the Coffee County Young Republicans. While we share the same goal of promoting conservative values and are a part of the larger GOP organization and an affiliate of the County Party, we maintain a separate executive committee and membership from the County Party.”

We will update this story as it develops.

VIDEO: Nashville “GUN SENSE NOW” Rally

On the steps of the Capitol, Tennesseans came together to call for action in the face of one American massacre after another.

Watch & share, and holler at your reps to #DOSOMETHING.

VIDEO: ARMING TEACHERS BILL HIGHLIGHTS (Heads to House & Senate Committees Wednesday)

Last week HB 1380 – a bill from Ryan Williams (R-Cookeville) to allow teachers to arm themselves in Tennessee’s schools – passed out of the K-12 subcommittee, despite every single witness who testified making a case in opposition, including a teacher, a student, a former teacher, and 3 representatives from law enforcement.

Watch the Highlights:

The Senate version is SB1399 by Sen. Mike Bell (R-Riceville).

The two measures are scheduled to be heard on the same day this week: Wednesday, April 10th.

The bill, as amended, allows the carrying of loaded, concealed weapons by school employees with permits. The names of the employees would be kept confidential, though it appears neither the school nor the state would be held liable for any of the employee’s actions in relation to a shooting incident.

Law enforcement witnesses included Brink Fidler, a former Metro Nashville plainclothes officer, Sheriff John Fuson of Montgomery County, representing the Tennessee Sheriffs Association, and Colonel Dereck Stewart of the Tennessee Highway Patrol.

They all were concerned about training and allowing teachers to teach and law enforcement to handle those duties.Sheriff Fuson also pointed out the issue of responding officers differentiating between well-intentioned  school employees and an active shooter.

House Education Committee chair Rep. Mark White (R-Memphis) said he talked to authorities at a Kentucky school in the aftermath of a shooting there, who said arming teachers “would’ve been the worst thing they could to.”

Rep. Williams responded that Parkland’s authorities thought differently.

Rep. Iris Rudder (R-Winchester) felt it was a “discussion worth having” and helped it pass to full committee, while Rep. John Mark Windle (D-Livingston) asked why Tennessee wouldn’t pay for School Resource Officers everywhere with the $1 Billion surplus.

The bill is before the house and senate committees Wednesday. Holler at your reps.

VIDEO: Rep. Faison’s “Facts” Flub – On Guns & the Bahamian Death Penalty

This week Rep. Jeremy Faison made an inaccurate statement in his defense of HB 1264, a bill that would would create a new concealed handgun carry permit process that requires no fee and only a 2 hour online training, meaning people would be able to get permits and carry guns nearly everywhere without ever firing one.

Here’s our previous video of highlights from the hearing, in case you missed it.

The bill is being carried by Rep. Andy Holt. It passed the House Judiciary Committee easily, despite the fact that even Speaker Casada’s own polling shows 93 percent of Tennessee voters – including 93 percent of Republicans, 94 percent of Democrats, 88 percent of gun owners and 89 percent of current permit holders – support the state’s current permit requirement for carrying a handgun in public.

For some context: Tennessee is already the 11th worst state when it comes to gun deaths. 6 of the 10 that are worse have laws that make guns easier to get and carry everywhere. In 2017, Tennessee led the entire nation in shootings involving children with access to unsecured, negligently stored firearms.

Studies have repeatedly shown states with stricter gun laws have fewer gun deaths, but some refuse to accept that and cite exceptions to the rule – like Chicago, or in Faison’s case the Bahamas – to “prove” that the correlation is not causation.

At the hearing Rep. Jeremy Faison – who thankfully seems to be recovering well after his recent accident – decided to go with the Bahamas as his example, saying:

“The places where the highest amount of crimes where a gun was used in America… those were in places that we have some of the most strict, draconian, anti-constitutional laws. So somehow this notion that if we pass what y’all call ‘common sense gun laws’ – which don’t exist – that crime’s just gonna go away… ask the Bahamians how that works. In the Bahamas you can get the death penalty for having a gun, and they have major gun crime every day. So I just want to encourage you when you’re trying to use that as an argument – you might want to research your own facts.”

Here’s the video:

Ok Jeremy, let’s “research the facts”.

Faison is simply wrong that “you can get the death penalty for having a gun in the Bahamas”. From the Bahamian Firearms Act:

Any person who purchases, acquires or has in his possession, uses or carries a gun without a licence therefor shall be liable —

  1. (a)  on conviction on information, to imprisonment for a term of ten years and to a fine of ten thousand dollars;
  2. (b)  on summary conviction before a Stipendiary and Circuit Magistrate, to imprisonment for a term of five years and to a fine of ten thousand dollars

There’s more to it, and the years have since been amended, but absolutely nothing in their laws that says “you can get the death penalty for having a gun.”

As one lawyer in the Bahamas told us:

“I have not heard of anyone being subject to a penalty of death upon being convicted of possessing a firearm in the Bahamas. Those convicted are often given a custodial sentence or made to pay a fine at the discretion of the court.”

Another Bahamian resident:

“Frankly, I don’t think you’ll get the death penalty for anything in the Bahamas. The Privy Council has effectively abolished the death penalty.”

Turns out the last execution in the Bahamas was in the year 2000, and as of August 2012 only one man was under the sentence of death – and he killed a police officer.

So that’s a big ol’ whiff from Jeremy there.

Where Faison has an inkling of a point is that the Bahamas does have restrictive gun laws and yet still high gun violence rates, but pointing to that as proof that in general stricter gun laws don’t work is no more valid than it would be to say that one country with much stricter gun laws has almost no gun violence proves they DO work.

Say Japan, for instance.

Again, studies of the issue in general have shown repeatedly there is a relationship between gun laws and the amount of guns, and gun deaths.

This is a complicated problem with many factors playing a part. The Bahamas and some other impoverished countries do have higher gun violence rats, but when it comes to the richest countries in the world, the United States is simply off the charts regarding gun deaths and gun ownership:

 

The Key Word is “Rich”.

The element that often gets left out of the gun violence conversation is the societal factor that has the highest correlation with gun violence is far and away poverty and wealth inequality.

The World Bank has a study that found:

“violent crime rates decrease when economic growth improves… faster poverty reduction leads to a decline in national crime rates.”

As Mark Kaplan professor of Social Welfare at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs put it:

“There is a strong correlation between homicide per million and income inequality… countries that are most equal have the lowest rates of gun-related homicides.”

Here’s a good conversation about it.

So yes, the Bahamas and Chicago have high murder rates. They also have high poverty rates.

When poverty and inequality are rampant in certain countries/neighborhoods, and people are in dire straits and desperate, bad things happen – particularly when guns are extremely accessible within the vicinity. (Chicago has states with lax gun laws right next door, and the Bahamas has the United States nearby)

This doesn’t mean gun safety laws don’t work. On balance the numbers are clear: They do.

What it does mean is if we’re serious about addressing gun violence in our communities, making them cheaper and even easier to get in already dangerous states is not the answer. Instead, we should be focusing on gun safety legislation and policies that address inequality and poverty:

…Raising our $7.25 an hour minimum wage to a livable one…expanding medicaid… subsidizing daycare for low income families… lowering health care costs and drug prices… tax reform that actually helps regular Americans (rather than corporations and the wealthy)… criminal justice reform…

Programs that put more money directly in people’s pockets, makes their lives better, and takes them out of desperate situations will save lives when it comes to gun violence.

In summation: The Bahamas doesn’t tell us gun laws don’t work. The Bahamas reminds us gun violence is a poverty/inequality problem as much as anything else.

And with all due respect to Rep. Faison, maybe next time you should “research your facts” before saying things that aren’t true on a legislative committee, especially one that’s helping to create a more dangerous environment for our children.

Letting people carry in public without ever firing one is like doing away with Driver’s License tests. If you agree, holler at Rep. Faison HERE.

(P.S. – Gun safety laws and the 2nd Amendment are not incompatible. Ask Justice Scalia.)