Despite a spate of murders, the Tennessee legislature rushes to liberalize gun laws 

America's many proud champions of the Second Amendment are complaining that last week's Alabama killing spree may lead to new calls for gun control. Indeed, there's a little congressional interest again in banning assault weapons like the one used by the gunman.

But will Tennessee fall prey to such weakness? Hah! Our legislature is more likely to pass a law requiring pregnant moms to carry them in maternity wards.

Less than 24 hours after the killings, the House Judiciary Committee passed a bill allowing handgun permit holders to ride around with loaded rifles and shotguns in their vehicles. After the committee voted, the bill's sponsor, Rep. Henry Fincher, said he hadn't heard of the Alabama shootings, but no matter. If any of our courageous licensed gunmen had been nearby with their pistols, they would have killed the shooter before his death toll reached 10, Fincher said. So what we need are more guns, right?

Of course, Alabama has a handgun carry law just like Tennessee's. And the killer had a permit. But let's not get caught up in the details, people.

Even as the legislature is moving with astonishingly little debate to let licensed gunmen carry weapons into saloons, parks and other new places, those same gunmen have been accused in three murders in the past five weeks. The latest is the tragic killing of a part-time model in the Memphis suburb of Bartlett. The other two were road rage shootings.

In one case, the permit holder killed a motorist after an accident, then pointed his .40 caliber pistol at a witness trying to dial 911, according to police. Another gun nut killed somebody in an argument over a parking space, police say.

Then there's the permit holder who shot and wounded his wife while cleaning his loaded Glock. And the one who pleaded guilty to assault after threatening his wife with his weapon.

Incredibly, there's been no mention of these crimes as all these gun bills have been moving through the committee system. Zip. Instead, legislators are trying to make secret the list of state permit holders, so the public will never know when they've committed a crime.

Who needs a living wage?

Our state legislators took a break from the Culture Wars last week to make life a little harder for working Tennesseans. By a vote of 18-13, the Senate decided to take away the power of city and county governments to require contractors to pay a living wage to workers.

This bill is brought to us by one of the Scene's favorite senators—Republican homophobe Paul Stanley of ritzy Germantown. The bill mainly applies to Memphis, where the city forces its contractors to pay the princely sum of $10 an hour.

"We all want workers to make as much as they can," Stanley patiently explained to his ignorant bleeding-heart colleagues. "But the free market system does the best job of determining those wages."

A couple of senators from Memphis argued against Stanley's bill. "If you think you could live on $10 an hour, I'd like to come take some tips from you," Sen. Beverly Marrero said. "We're talking about really hardworking poor people here."

Sen. Jim Kyle said he appreciated Stanley's interest in the working people of Memphis. "He doesn't represent Memphis," Kyle noted. "Perhaps he drives through there every now and then. Perhaps not."

Kyle went on to invoke the limited government mantra of former President Ronald Reagan, noting that today's Republicans prefer big government when they can use it to keep the little guy down. "Where will this stop?" Kyle asked.

House Democrats favor cute kittens

House Democrats issued their long-awaited "action agenda," and it's nothing short of genius. For the first few months of the session, they've been wandering aimlessly while doing little. So leader Gary Odom issued this bold statement:

"Expanding opportunities in education, bringing more jobs to Tennessee and still being fiscally responsible are at the top of our agenda. Giving Tennessee students the best education possible while also trying to give working moms and dads the chance to earn a living, we give ourselves a much better chance to move this state out of the financial showdown that we're in."

Some might suggest the "action agenda" is lacking in specific calls to action. In fact, there's not a single mention of any legislation.

But those are negative thoughts. And negativity is exactly what has led Tennessee Democrats to this little rough patch in their history. Then again, why do anything when platitudes will suffice.

Gary Odom, great leader or the greatest leader ever?

Email jwoods@nashvillescene.com, or call 615-844-9445.

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