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Haslam says gun laws should be left alone

1:53 PM, Dec 17, 2012   |    comments
Gov. Bill Haslam/ GEORGE WALKER IV / FILE / THE TENNESSEAN
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By Chas Sisk, The Tennessean

Gov. Bill Haslam said he does not believe Tennessee's gun laws should be changed in the wake of last week's shooting in Newtown, Conn., even as he acknowledged the massacre will impact the debate over guns-in-trunks legislation.

Haslam said he still believes schools and universities should be able to bar their employees from bringing their gun to work, a position that has put him at odds with some Republicans in the state legislature. Haslam said his focus would be on reviewing the state's mental health services.

"I don't know a lot of legislation that I've seen would have stopped what happened there," Haslam told reporters Monday. "I think we'll have a national discussion. I think it (the shooting) will be part of how we talk about that bill in Tennessee."

President Barack Obama has hinted at a review of the naiton's gun laws after a 20-year-old gunman killed 20 children and six adults in Sandy Hook Elementary School on Friday. But it is unclear how the issue will play out in state capitals, where many of the nation's gun laws are written.

Tennessee lawmakers has been working on a measure that would require employers to allow guns in workplace parking lots, provided their owners keep the weapons in their vehicles. Haslam and Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, the Senate leader, have disagreed over whether schools should be exempt from the measure.

A poll taken for Vanderbilt University before the shooting showed that 53 percent of Tennessee's registered voters support guns-in-trunks legislation. Forty-four percent said employers should not be required by the state to let employees keep guns in their vehicles.

Haslam told reporters after an event in the Tennessee Capitol that he would prefer the state to focus on other issues.

"I don't think that's the key issue facing Tennessee today," he said. "I think if you look at Tennesseans, they're fairly comfortable with where our laws are now."

"That's not the first horrific incident that we've had in America, and there's a recent poll in Tennessee that showed most people would be in favor of letting employees keep their weapons locked in cars on business property," Haslam added. "I don't know if this will change."

Haslam said he plans to hold a conference on safety in schools next month, where the shooting would be discussed.

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