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, and not permitted by any organization that isn’t a charity and hasn’t been pre-approved.

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.

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.

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 made up *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.

If you have a problem with state legislators putting out false information about serious issues like gun safety, 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.)

 

VIDEO: Holt’s Easy Gun Permit Without Ever Firing A Gun Bill Clears Hurdle

A bill that would create a new concealed handgun carry permit process that requires no fee and only a two-hour, online-training certificate will be heard again March 6.

Rep. Andy Holt, R-Dresden, District 76, presented HB1264 to House Judiciary Committee members on Feb. 26. The bill passed by voice vote with three Democratic members requesting their opposition be recorded.

The proposed legislation would create two handgun permits in Tennessee: an “enhanced handgun permit,” which tracks closely to the existing permit process; and a new “concealed handgun permit,” which eliminates the registration fee and live firearm training requirement.

In testimony, Beth Joslin Roth, policy director for the Safe Tennessee Project, said data and statistical evidence suggest that less firearm training for handgun carriers will increase the likelihood of gun-related injury and death in Tennessee. She is backed up by numerous studies.

She pointed out that Tennessee is 11th in gun deaths, and that 6 of the 10 states that have more already have these “Wild West” laws, as Rep. Bo Mitchell referred to them

Watch some of the testimony here:

Joslin Roth said:

“As a researcher, I’m concerned about the reducing the training requirement to carry loaded guns in public. This legislation seems to be moving Tennessee closer to becoming one of the handful of states that do not require gun permits and, therefore, allow the carry of guns without any firearm safety or range training.”

If enacted, the concealed handgun permit would become available Jan. 1, 2020.

Rep. Jeremy Faison questioned Joslin Roth’s statistics on stricter gun laws and fewer gun deaths, which were correct, and our old pal Micah Van Huss chimed in at the end saying:

“Guns everywhere sounds like freedom to me.”

Next we’ll be giving out drivers licenses without ever making anyone get behind the wheel. If you think this is a step in the wrong direction, holler at your reps.

Next step:
HB1264 is scheduled to be heard in the House Finance, Ways & Means Subcommittee on March 6.

How they voted:
House Judiciary Committee, Feb. 28, Voice Vote – Ayes Prevail:
Rep. Martin Daniel, R-Knoxville, District 18
Rep. Mike Carter, R-Ooltewah, District 29
Rep. Michael Curcio, R-Dickson, District 69
Rep. Johnny Garrett, R-Goodlettsville, District 45
Rep. Clay Doggett, R-Pulaski, District 70
Rep. Rick Eldridge, R-Morristown, District 10
Rep. Jeremy Faison, R-Cosby, District 11
Rep. Andrew Farmer, R-Sevierville, District 17
Rep. Bruce Griffey, R-Paris, District 75
Rep. Dan Howell, R-Cleveland, District 22
Rep. Bud Hulsey, R-Kingsport, District 2
Rep. Curtis Johnson, R-Clarksville, District 68
Rep. William Lamberth, R-Portland, District 44
Rep. Mary Littleton, R-Dickson, District 78
Rep. Brandon Ogles, R-Franklin, District 61
Rep. Iris Rudder, R-Winchester, District 39
Rep. Bill Sanderson, R-Kenton, District 77
Rep. Paul Sherrell, R-Sparta, District 43
Rep. James “Micah” Van Huss, R-Gray, District 6
Rep. Jason Potts, D-Nashville, District 59
Rep. Joe Towns, Jr., D-Memphis, District 84

Requested to be recorded voting No:
Rep. Bill Beck, D-Nashville, District 51
Rep. Karen Camper, D-Memphis, District 87
Rep. Antonio Parkinson, D-Memphis, District 98

CDC REPORT: Tennessee Among Worst in Gun Deaths

The CDC just released their report about gun-related deaths in 2017 and Tennessee is near the bottom, coming in 40th in the country with 18 gun-related deaths per every 100,000 people.

The bottom 5 states were Missouri, Lousiana, Montana, Alabama, and Alaska.

The top 5 were Hawaii, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York, Connecticut.

This backs up the idea that states with tighter gun laws do have fewer gun deaths, with some outliers.

In related news, this week The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston released a study of over 600 young adults in Texas and found that access to guns, not mental illness, was a better predictor of whether or not they had threatened someone with a gun. 

Their results were published in the journal Preventive Medicine. Dr. Yu Lu, a postdoctoral research fellow at UTMB and lead author of the study, said:

“Counter to public beliefs, the majority of mental health symptoms examined were not related to gun violence… Much of the limited research on gun violence and mental illness has focused on violence among individuals with severe mental illnesses or rates of mental illness among individuals arrested for violent crimes. What we found is that the link between mental illness and gun violence is not there.

What researchers found instead was that individuals who had gun access were approximately 18 times more likely to have threatened someone with a gun. Individuals with high hostility were about 3.5 times more likely to threaten someone.

Each year, an estimated 75,000 to 100,000 Americans are injured by firearms and 30,000 to 40,000 die from firearms, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Very little government-backed scientific research is done on the topic of guns. This stems in large part from a little-known amendment called The Dickey Amendment, named for Rep. Jay Dickey, R-Arkansas, who got the bill passed on behalf of the NRA in 1996.

From Newsweek:

“The Dickey Amendment is a classic piece of NRA-backed legislation passed in 1996. Three years earlier, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) did a study that came to an obvious conclusion: Guns in the home were associated with an increased risk of homicide and suicide in the home. The NRA didn’t like that conclusion, and when Republicans took control of the House in the 1994 midterms, the gun lobby persuaded Congress to pass the amendment, which states “none of the funds made available for injury prevention and control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) may be used to advocate or promote gun control,” which effectively meant any research that could conceivably lead to gun control measures could threaten CDC funding.

Since then, the so-called Dickey amendment has brought federal funding of firearms research to a halt.

But here’s the twist: Before he died last year, Dickey had a change of heart. In 2012, he co-authored a Washington Post editorial with Mark Rosenberg, the head of the CDC when the Dickey amendment was passed, calling for MORE scientific research to prevent firearm injuries and deaths.

From their piece:

“We were on opposite sides of the heated battle 16 years ago, but we are in strong agreement now that scientific research should be conducted into preventing firearm injuries and that ways to prevent firearm deaths can be found without encroaching on the rights of legitimate gun owners.”

Better late then never, we guess.

As a reminder, both Ronald Reagan and Justice Scalia supported gun safety legislation, as did the NRA itself. Common sense gun laws and the 2nd Amendment are not incompatible.

Democrats like Lucy McBath are working hard to get the Dickey Amendment overturned. If you agree that should happen, holler at your state and local reps and tell them to repeal the Dickey Amendment.

Nobody should be afraid of the truth.

ADL: Extreme Right-Wingers Do The Killing Here

The latest Report from the Anti-Defamation league tells us that “In 2018, domestic extremists killed at least 50 people in the U.S., a sharp increase… and EVERY ONE had ties to a right-wing extremist movement. The majority were white supremacists, which is typically the case.”

We hear an awful lot about the terrorists streaming across our borders, which we’re told is why we desperately need an end-to-end wall, but in reality almost all of the extremists who actually do the killing are already right here at home.

Seems like we probably won’t be hearing a lot about that from the president, so we thought you should know.