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Residents Share Concerns as Lawmakers Mull Guns in Parking Lots Bill

By Natalie Potts
By npotts@wbbjtv.com

JACKSON, Tenn.- The state Senate held its first meeting over a gun bill that would allow gun permit holders to leave their weapons in their vehicles while at work.

A similar bill dominated last year's legislative session. Across West Tennessee opinions are divided. Resident said they have the right to bear arms.

"I leave work at 11 o'clock, no one is really going to stop anybody, criminals don't follow the laws," said resident Myrlin Biffle. "So how on earth are you going to defend your own rights or your life for that matter if anybody steps up with a gun?"

A similar bill failed the legislature last year due in part to a strong lobbying effort by big business owners. Some small local business owners agreed that they too have rights when it comes to allowing firearms onto their property.

"If you have a gun you carry it in your car and you're responsible for what happens. If you drive down the road and shoot somebody you are responsible for that," said business owner Tracie Woodward. "It's the same way in my place of business. If my employees bring a gun, something happens and somebody gets shot, your business should be responsible for it."

This year's bill has two big changes from last year. The law would only apply to those who have a carry permit and it grants immunity to property owners if someone is killed or injured because of a gun stored in a car on their site. Residents said they hope lawmakers quickly approve the measure.

"I understand the door swings both ways, but safety comes first, " said resident Otavis Young. "Times now, it's getting so hard now it's crazy out there the best thing to do is just be prepared for it."

Governor Bill Haslam stated that he wants this new bill to exclude educational institutions, so that colleges and universities will still have the right to ban weapons in their parking lots. Local property owners told WBBJ 7 Eyewitness News that they did not mind the law only applying to those who have hand gun carry permits but they were unsure about the shift in responsibility for property owners.

"If a property owner allows people to carry those weapons they should be responsible for what happens that's what I believe," said Woodward.

The measure was voted to continue to a higher committee with nine votes for it and one abstention.
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