CIVIL RIGHTS UPDATE: Tennessee legislature makes major moves to get rid of gun-free zones at public universities and businesses.

By overwhelming votes, the Tennessee legislature passed two bills that get rid of gun-free zones at public universities and provides immunity to businesses if they don’t post ban. CPRC’s John Lott testified on both bills when they started in the state Senate Judiciary Committee.

The gun-free zones at public universities allows “full-time employees of state public colleges or universities to carry a handgun while on property owned, operated, or used by the employing college or university if the employee has a valid Tennessee handgun carry permit.” This bill passed by a 28 to 5 vote in the state Senate and 69 to 24 in the state House. Republican Gov. Bill Haslam might veto the bill because it didn’t give the institutions the power to opt out, but with a 85 to 15 percent vote in the Senate and a 74 to 26 percent in the House, there are more than enough votes to over ride a veto. It was the Senate version of the bill that was passed.

The other bill “provides immunity to the business/entity if the business doesn’t post” signs banning permitted concealed handguns. This bill passed by a 26 to 4 vote in the state Senate and by 77 to 12 in the state House. The governor hasn’t spoken out on this bill, but even if he were to veto it, it looks as if it would be easy to override the veto.

Taken together these two bills will make a major difference in eliminating gun-free zones in the state. Tennessee will be the 13th state that is ending gun-free zones on college campuses. The immunity bill appears to be the first one in the country.

I hope that Gov. Haslam doesn’t veto the bill — we don’t normally allow institutions to “opt out” of civil rights legislation these days. And I would call his attention to this letter from my colleague Jack Parker in the Engineering school. And also this column of mine from 2007.