NRA Exposed: The lonely battle for gun reform in Tennessee

NRA Headquarters

Battling the NRA for gun safety reform is tough in any state, especially in a state like Tennessee, as described dramatically in the email below by Beth Roth of the Safe Tennessee Project.

[March 1, 2019]

Last week was incredibly tough – emotionally and physically.

I and other domestic violence advocates spent hours meeting with legislators about our domestic violence legislation. We felt good about how things seemed to be going, but all that changed Monday night when we learned that NRA was actively working against our efforts.

On Tuesday, the day our bills were scheduled to be heard by the Senate Judiciary, we learned that the NRA lobbyist was telling committee members to vote for the bill that would overturn the 2017 domestic violence dispossession form law and vote against our third party affidavit bill. We also learned that one of the two Democrats on the Judiciary Committee was absent, meaning it was very likely that we would not even get a second motion (necessary to have debate on a bill) on our affidavit bill.

A Republican we met with was sympathetic and supportive of our legislation. She said she was tired of the NRA’s bullying and that she would second our bill and make a motion to roll it a week (so we’d have at least two Democrats on the committee) and that she would vote for the bill.  However, when the bill was called, the Senator was nowhere to be found. She stepped out for a “quick meeting” and left us without a second on the bill.

You can read more about everything that happened on Tuesday here, including video of a state senator suggesting that since nothing can really be done to keep guns away from abusers, victims should just be taught self defense instead.

Tonight, HB1295, the amended bill to overturn the 2017 domestic violence law will be on the House floor. Despite our efforts today, it will pass.  It will be on the Senate floor in the coming weeks and we are still working to do what we can to stop it, but the odds are not good.

In case you’re wondering why something as seemingly commonsense as passing laws to keep guns out of the hands of violent men who beat women is now somehow controversial, the answer is simple: the National Rifle Association.

Last week, the NRA announced [at the Federal level] that it will be actively opposing reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) over provisions in the legislation designed to prevent abusers from legally possessing firearms.

Specifically, they object to closing the “boyfriend loophole” (under federal law, people convicted of domestic abuse against spouses or family members are prohibited from possessing guns, but the law does not include dating partners) and including convicted stalkers and those under orders of protections from having guns. In other words, they object to preventing violent men with dangerous histories from having guns.

Read more here:

NRA to oppose Violence Against Women Act: report

The NRA Is Fighting Like Hell to Keep Stalkers and Abusers Armed

The NRA Is Trying to Block the Violence Against Women Act 

And in case you had any doubt about the type of organization the NRA is, it was reported last week that an NRA official contacted a “Sandy Hook Hoaxer” to spread doubt about Parkland the day after 17 people were gunned down inside Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School last year.  This is disgusting but also very personal for me.  One of this “hoaxer’s” prime targets was the family of 6-year-old Avielle Richman who was killed inside her Newtown classroom. They were relentlessly harassed and tormented by this man, Alex Jones, and Infowars. Avielle’s dad was a friend of mine, and one of the kindest, most generous souls I’ve ever known. Last Monday, he took his own life.

So, last week was tough all the way around.

This week, two of Rep. Stewart’s bills will be before the House Constitutional Protections Subcommittee. HB1427 would require background checks for private gun sales, and HB1428 would make it illegal to transfer guns to a prohibited person, because under current Tennessee state law, it is NOT illegal to transfer guns to felons or convicted domestic abusers. In other words, if you know your neighbor is legally prohibited from possessing firearms and you give him a gun, you have not broken a law.  Now, you’d think that this should be legislation that everyone would support, but sadly, you’d be wrong.  Because there is only one Democrat on the House Constitutional Protections Subcommittee, neither bill will be seconded, which means they will fail without ever being discussed or voted on.

HB545, amended legislation to give permit holders a pass if they fail to notice a business has a “no guns” sign, will be on the House floor Thursday. It will pass. And HB409, a bill that strengthens our state’s existing “Stand Your Ground” law will be before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday. It will pass, too.

Even when this work is hard, even when it is incredibly discouraging, we are reminded that this work is so very important. This is a marathon, not a sprint, and in the end, we will prevail.

BETH JOSLIN ROTH | POLICY DIRECTOR
SAFE TENNESSEE PROJECT