“This is about me doing what I think is right. It has nothing to do with the NRA. None at all,” he said with a straight face.
So we thought it was funny that House Speaker Beth Harwell, bucking up her caucus today before the vote on guns-in-cars, made a big point of saying the NRA is for the bill. The NRA's influence might be on the wane in some parts of the country, but not in Tennessee, no sir.
"I’m going to say to you that the National Rifle Association has come out and officially endorsed this piece of legislation," she declared.
That was before she gave Republicans permission to vote for Democratic amendments if it made them feel better—she could fix that in conference committee later if need be—and suggested that they keep their traps shut during the debate if they didn’t want to wind up in the newspaper saying something stupid about guns only a little while after the Sandy Hook elementary school massacre.
Here are excerpts from Harwell’s little speech this morning to House Republicans:
The very prominent gun piece of legislation is before us and we wanted to just all caucus beforehand so that we’re all kind of marching on the same page. This caucus has been through a tremendous amount with regards to this piece of legislation, much more than you deserve to have gone through, and for that, I’m sorry and I regret it.
As the famous saying is we are where we are. This bill’s before us. Obviously the business community is not in love with this bill, and we have some fringe gun organizations that aren’t in love with it as well. But this is the piece of legislation that has moved through the Senate and now is before us. I’m going to say to you that the National Rifle Association has come out and officially endorsed this piece of legislation. And so those of you who are hearing from fringe gun organizations … the National Rifle Association has endorsed this bill. The business community is to a large extent holding their nose and accepting the fact that we are where we are. …
Our leader, Gerald McCormick, is going to table those amendments. On parliamentary procedure, we always encourage you to follow the leader. However, this is a difficult piece of legislation. Some of the amendments that the Democrats are bringing forward, some of you might want to vote for. … So I would ask you to vote your conscience. … You are free to vote for any amendment that’s brought forward. … Know that you are a good Republican if you do. … I’m going to tell you from my perspective to you all, the less you say, the better. There’s no need for any of you to jump up and say anything pro or con on this piece of legislation. You gain nothing. Just stay quiet and vote your conscience.