Democrats and Gun BillsThe Tennessean is once again engaging in a game of political pretend, this time the paper pretends as though measures loosening gun restrictions in Tennessee have no Democratic support in the General Assembly:
The state legislature is on the verge of passing a series of bills this year that would greatly expand the number of places where people who hold licenses to carry loaded handguns can take their weapons. Democratic leadership in the General Assembly had stymied such efforts for years, but that has changed with Republicans now holding a slim majority.
Taken together, the measures would be the biggest liberalization of the state's gun laws since the passage of the carry permit law 15 years ago. It also could be a major step toward an even greater loosening of the restrictions on handgun owners, activists on both sides of the issue say.
Jimmy Naifeh and other members of the previous Democratic Leadership in the Tennessee House always held up serious gun legislation because their political money was coming from the anti-gun lobby. Firearms liberalization bills couldn't be brought to a vote because many Democratic legislators-especially those from suburban and rural areas-had told their constituents that they support expanded firearms freedoms, but that position is at odds with the one espoused by those who often supply Democrats with the cash needed to win elections. The simple solution for Tennessee Democrats was to bury gun legislation deep within committee to avoid going on record with a public floor vote.
The "slim Republican majority" will now bring many of the gun bills which had been bottled up or buried to the floor. Kent Williams will be forced to vote for them (he likely would anyway) because he cannot afford to be seen as being in any way anti-gun to his constituents. In addition, Williams doesn't want to do anything that could undermine his chances at being re-elected to the House, since he will be unable to run as a Republican in 2010.
Many of the Democrats who had told their constituents how pro-gun they are will be forced to go on the record. For some, it will be a kind of liberation from their old leaders and they will be free to do what they've always wanted to on this question. For some others, the floor vote will be as though they are being dragged unto their execution, forced to vote on a matter that they would simply rather leave alone.
Either way, many Democrats will go along with the so-called "Republican" gun measures. Expect some of them to pass with 55 (and in some cases 60) votes or more.