Friday, April 20, 2007

Tennessee gets slightly more rational after massacre

In a surprise move, a House panel voted Wednesday to repeal a state law that forbids the carrying of handguns on property and buildings owned by state, county and city governments - including parks and playgrounds. "I think the recent Virginia disaster - or catastrophe or nightmare or whatever you want to call it - has woken up a lot of people to the need for having guns available to law-abiding citizens," said Rep. Frank Niceley, R-Strawberry Plains. "I hope that is what this vote reflects."

As amended, the legislation still wouldn't allow guns on school property, however. Niceley's bill aimed to let people holding handgun carry permits take their weapons onto state park property, which is now forbidden. But when Niceley brought the bill before the Criminal Practice Subcommittee, a branch of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Rob Briley, D-Nashville, promptly proposed an amendment to expand its scope. "We've been piecemealing this thing year after year," Briley said. "Why don't we just let you take your gun anywhere you want to?"

Tennessee's handgun carry law includes a listing of places where permit holders are forbidden to take their weapons. Briley has proposed an amendment that repeals a provision prohibiting guns "in or on the grounds of any public park, playground, civic center or other building facility, area or property owned, used or operated by any municipal, county or state government, or instrumentality thereof."

With very little debate, the amendment was quickly approved on a voice vote with only Rep. Janis Sontany, D-Nashville, chairman of the subcommittee, audibly shouting, "No!" She then asked Niceley if he had any comments before the bill, as amended, faced a final vote in the panel. "I'm in shock, and I can't talk," replied Niceley, though quickly adding he thought Briley's proposal was "a good amendment." The panel then approved the overall bill, sending it to the full House Judiciary Committee for a vote next week. Briley is chairman of the committee.

Niceley said afterward that Tennessee should join other states that basically allow licensed people to take their handguns "anywhere they want." The Briley amendment does not go that far, having no impact on separate provisions of the law that, for example, forbid guns on school grounds, in courtrooms or in establishments that serve alcoholic beverages.

But Briley, Sontany and others said afterward that it would allow permit holders to take their guns on most other state, county or city government property - including the Legislative Plaza, where signs are now posted to prohibit weapons except those carried by law enforcement officers.

Briley said in an interview that he and a handful of other legislators in subcommittees have borne the brunt of harsh criticism from some gun owners for opposing past efforts to "nibble away" at restrictions on where handguns can be taken. "This has been on the backs of just a few people," he said. "Now it's time for other people to stand up and say, 'We want these protections in the law' - or not."


Florida man shot in home invasion: "An unidentified man was shot once in the chest Thursday evening after he allegedly burglarized a home in the 2700 block of Hollywood Avenue, Escambia County deputies said. Sgt. Ray Robinson said the homeowners returned to their house on Hollywood and found the suspect inside. One of the residents retrieved a shotgun, while the other called 911, Robinson said. The suspect attempted to leave the home and pushed one of the residents, knocking her to the ground. At that time, the other resident fired one shot that hit the suspect in the chest, Robinson said. The man who was shot was transported to Baptist Hospital. His condition was not known."

Tennessee man shot in home invasion: "A man was shot and injured Tuesday night in what law officers say appears to be another "home invasion" case, the second such case reported here in a week's time. In the Tuesday night case, which occurred on Peppermint Drive, a man named Brian Woods was shot in the leg, allegedly by a homeowner after two men broke into a home and tried to rob the residents. Woods was found on the porch of a nearby house, wounded and screaming for help following the alleged break-in, law officers said. He was treated at the scene by Putnam Ambulance medics and then airlifted to a hospital in another city. According to a report by Putnam Sheriff's Deputy Sgt. David Gibbons, the residents of one house reported that around 9 p.m. Tuesday two men entered the basement of their home and tried to rob them. "One subject was armed with a shotgun and the other with a SKS rifle," the report says. "The homeowner took the rifle away from one of the subjects and fired, and both subjects fled the scene."

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