TN gun bill leaves loophole for political groups, lobbyists

3:21 PM, Mar 31, 2013   |    comments
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An effort to seal Tennessee's handgun carry permit records from public scrutiny would create an exception for political operatives and lobbying groups to still obtain the entire set of names and addresses.

Republican Sen. Ferrell Haile of Gallatin told the Senate Judiciary Committee this week that his bill is an effort to block the publication of handgun carry permit records on newspaper websites.

"We're not trying to keep it where it's not usable, but we want to keep it from being published," he said.

Political operatives and advocacy groups want to be able to obtain the names and addresses of all 398,000 handgun carry permit holders so they can target them for fundraising and campaign mailings.

Sen. Mike Bell, R-Riceville, said he ran into similar issues when he tried to pass similar legislation years ago.

"My biggest resistance came from members of my own party for this provision, who wanted to continue using it for political purposes," he said.

Vote delayed

Bell wants to strip the loophole for political groups from the current bill, but Haile resisted that move for fear that it would torpedo the entire effort. A vote on the bill was delayed for a week to consider the options.

Rep. William Lamberth, R-Gallatin, said he prefers his version of the bill, which has already cleared the House without exceptions for lobbyists or political groups.

"I like our bill," he said. "It came out clean over here."

Both versions of the bill would allow the Safety Department to confirm whether someone who had run afoul of the law was a permit holder, but only by providing a legal document or other record "that indicates the named person is not eligible to possess a handgun carry permit."

It's unclear whether that standard would allow officials to confirm suspended permits or just revoked ones.

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