By Chas Sisk | The Tennessean
Gov. Bill Haslam has signed a bill letting handgun permit holders carry their guns anywhere in their cars, including to work, provided they keep them locked up in their vehicles.
A spokesman for the governor said Friday that Haslam had signed the "guns-in-trunks" measure, Senate Bill 142, after a lengthy and politically costly debate in the state legislature. Haslam made no statement on the decision.
The measure takes effect July 1.
Business and gun rights groups in Tennessee sparred for four years over legislation meant to bar employers from keeping their workers from storing guns in their cars in company parking lots. The measure failed in the previous legislature, prompting the National Rifle Association to wage a campaign to defeat the state House of Representative's third-ranking Republican, state Rep. Debra Maggart of Hendersonville.
Maggart's defeat prompted Tennessee Republicans to promise action on the bill again in 2013. That momentum was sustained even after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Conn., shifted the national conversation toward more restrictions on firearms.
On Thursday, a committee of the U.S. Senate passed an assault weapons ban, though its chances of being enacted into law are considered small.
Tennessee's "guns-in-trunks" bill removes criminal penalties for carrying a firearm in a car onto private property without the owner's permission, but it left open the legal question of whether an employer could fire someone for bringing a gun to work. Business groups largely acquiesced to the measure, and the NRA endorsed it, though some gun rights advocates complained it did not go far enough.