Tenn. representative brings semi-automatic rifle to committee hearing

(Photo: WKRN)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – A Tennessee state representative pushing for background checks for private purchase of guns made a dramatic statement by bringing a gun purchased off the Internet into a subcommittee hearing Wednesday morning.

The gun was unloaded and secured with zip ties by the Tennessee Highway Patrol, the agency in charge of security at the State Capitol.

Rep. Mike Stewart (D) of Davidson County said he purchased the gun and two 30 rounds of ammunition Tuesday night for $750.

Mike Stewart (Photo: WKRN)
Mike Stewart (Photo: WKRN)

He said the firearm was purchased from the same website where one of the guns used in the Chattanooga attack was purchased.

The gun exchange was done in a parking lot in Davidson County.

Rep. Stewart would not disclose where the exchange happened or the name of the seller.

“I bought this from a law-abiding citizen who was following the law,” he said. “The problem was not the seller; it is the law.”

Rep. Stewart introduced a bill that was up for discussion that would require background checks for people making a private purchase.

“I went on the Internet and saw people saying this is a myth, that you can go out and buy weapons like this without a background check,” Rep. Stewart said after the sub-committee hearing. “There is a lot of misinformation out there.”

He continued, “The public has been told you can’t buy assault rifles without background checks and that is simply untrue.”

Rep. Jon Lundberg, Republican from Bristol, voted against the bill and called Rep. Stewart’s presentation a show.

(Photo: WKRN)
(Photo: WKRN)

“What are we talking about?” He said. “We are talking about putting limits on what people can sell in Tennessee and that is an unfair way of doing it.”

He continued, “If you wanted to buy a gun and give it to your son or daughter for Christmas, you are going to have to go through another hoop and I am not sure that’s something Tennesseans want to see.”

News 2 reached out to the family of Josh McLean. The newlywed was shot and killed in the Nashville West shopping center parking lot in September 2013.

He was there to meet a man who answered an online ad to buy some guns from McLean.

His widow, Lauren, told News 2 he had bought and sold guns like that before without a problem.

If Rep. Stewart’s bill was a law back then, McLean would have had to run a background check on the man before making the sell.

His widow told News 2 by phone, “It’s not a bad idea to require a background. If you are clear, there is nothing to worry about, and if not, you should not have a gun.”

Since McLean’s murder, his sister Jacquie McLean Curb, has been outspoken about tougher enforcement of existing gun laws.

She wrote to News 2 in an email:

I would first like to say I am thankful for Rep. Stewart’s safety after having purchased an AR-15 type rifle in a parking lot from a seller off of armslist.com. Passing a bill is not going to change the fact that he was able to do this. It proves the fact loud and clear that there are people in the world who are always going to do the wrong thing. Rep. Stewart’s bill does not make sense in the bigger picture of things. You can shut arms list completely down but there will always be an underground market for guns…just like drugs, designer goods, and personal services all have a massive black market following. The bigger broader picture has to be examined here. Forget pulling stunts to show you can buy a gun on the street corner to get a background check bill passed. People are going to buy and sell guns legally or illegally period. Let’s start punishing people more severely for their wrong doings with guns. We have laws in place for this but in most cases people get off too easily when they commit crimes with guns. There are no repercussions here. This is what people need to know. Let’s put some effort in backing up the laws we already have in place and quit letting people off so easily when they commit crimes with guns. Let’s also look at the cold case back log as in my case, this means we have a lot of murderers on the streets…still committing crimes…with guns! Let’s put some time, money, and effort behind this fact.

Despite the dramatic display, the bill failed in subcommittee. Rep. Stewart said he will reintroduce the bill next session.

When asked what he was going to do with the rifle, he said he would sell it.

If you have any information about the murder of Joshua McLean contact Crime Stoppers at 615-742-7463.

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