Open carry gun bill faces fiscal note criticism

Open carry gun bill faces fiscal note criticism (Image 1)

A bill to allow gun owners to openly carry their weapons faces a controversial path if it were to passed in the Tennessee House like it was last week in the State Senate.

This comes against the backdrop of a gun rights right advocate saying opposition from Governor Haslam's administration, “is an attempt to wrongfully manipulate the fiscal process.”

John Harris, the executive director of the Tennessee Firearms Association, has been outspoken in his criticism of how Governor Bill Haslam's Administration has gone about its opposition to the bill.

The bill easily passed the State Senate last Tuesday without what is called a “fiscal note,” an estimate of what the bill will cost.

The Department of Safety has acknowledged that it attached a fiscal note of $100,000 to the bill, but it's not clear when it did so.  

In a tight budget year like this one, bills that cost money are often a reason why measures may not get support from lawmakers.  

In a statement, Department of Public Safety spokesperson Jennifer Donnals said, “The department believes it is good policy to make it clear on the handgun permit cards that the cards are issued for the purpose of carrying a concealed handgun. There is a one-time cost of $100,000 to make this change to the cards, therefore the department has flagged the bill for fiscal reasons.”

A “flagged” bill generally means opposition.

Gun rights advocate Harris told News 2, “The effort by the administration to put on a $100,000 fiscal note…is an attempt to wrongfully manipulate the fiscal process.”

He scoffs at the idea that “printing the word ‘concealed'” on a gun permit card could cost $100,000 dollars.

Harris questioned whether the Department of Public Safety has the authority to essentially attach a fiscal note to the bill, especially after legislative records say the cost was deemed “insignificant,” before the bill passed the Senate.

An email Monday night from Dept. of Safety spokesperson Donnals said in response, “There was a fiscal note attached since the bill was filed. An amendment to the bill was filed stating the department did not have to change the cards, and that changed the note to 'not significant.' On April 8, the department asked Fiscal Review to correct the fiscal note to reflect the $100,000 it will cost the department to change the cards as a policy decision. Again, we feel it is necessary to make clear the purpose of the cards is for concealed carry.”

The measure has caught the eye of the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) for reasons other than a fiscal note.

“It puts officers at a disadvantage because people who should not have firearms do not carry signs saying they are not eligible to have firearms,” Sgt. Robert Weaver of the FOP told News 2.” You are giving up a distinct advantage with a weapon exposed, the bad guys then know who to target.”

House sponsor Rep. Micah Van Huss has indicated he might try the unusual maneuver of bringing a bill on the full House floor without committee approval.

To do rarely succeeds, since it needs a two-thirds vote and lawmakers typical do not want to fiddle with the committee process in such a dramatic fashion.

There are indications that Rep. Van Huss plans to bring the open carry bill to the House Finance sub-committee as early as Monday evening.

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