“Guns on Campus” Bill Fails to Pass House Civil Justice Subcommittee

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The House Civil Justice Subcommittee heard a multitude of firearms-related bills this week, including HB884 by Rep. Judd Matheny (R-Tullahoma), which would allow individuals, including students, with a handgun permit to carry firearms on public higher education campuses (among other places).

Both sides of the were represented by multiple parties which led to a lengthy debate on the topic on Wednesday.

On behalf of several state departments and the Haslam Administration, Russell Marty, legislative liaison for the Governor’s Office, opposed the legislation because it would infringe on the rights of private property owners as well as public state agency property rights.

Reverend Jeannie Hunter, a volunteer for Mom’s Demand Action, also opposed the bill. Before voicing her concerns, Hunter referenced the Florida school shooting that occurred moments before she began her testimony. She highlighted that the bill would virtually allow anyone with a carry permit to carry in the same manner as a highly-trained law enforcement officer.

James Garrett, on the other hand, insisted this bill would allow permit holders to protect themselves in the event a dangerous situation occurred.

Tennessee Highway Patrol Deputy Commissioner Colonel Tracy Trott further emphasized the concerns of the law enforcement community, noting the bill was essentially a “carry like a cop” bill. According to Trott, law enforcement officers complete more than 100 hours of firearms training. Considering carry permit holders only complete eight hours of training, Trott says there is a certain skill level an individual has depending on the number of hours of training.

In the case of a mass shooter incident, “We want to be the only ones in the room with a gun,” Trott said.

In addition to these testimonies, Rep. Bill Beck (D-Nashville) highlighted the hefty fiscal note and potential negative economic impact the legislation could have on numerous communities.

The University of Tennessee has long opposed legislative efforts to further expand the presence of firearms on public campuses.

The bill was ultimately opposed unanimously by the Subcommittee members.

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