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Originally published Tuesday, March 17, 2009 at 9:20 AM

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Tenn. House to vote on allowing loaded riles in cars, allowing deadly force against carjacking

Proposals to allow loaded shotguns and rifles to be transported in vehicles and for people to respond to carjacking attempts with deadly force are among several gun-related bills headed for floor votes in the Tennessee House.

Associated Press Writer

NASHVILLE, Tenn. —

Proposals to allow loaded shotguns and rifles to be transported in vehicles and for people to respond to carjacking attempts with deadly force are among several gun-related bills headed for floor votes in the Tennessee House.

Other gun bills that cleared the House Calendar Committee on Tuesday include measures to give current and retired judges the right to carry guns wherever law enforcement officers can, and to prohibit the state Safety Department from collecting information about weapons used in handgun training courses.

Votes are scheduled for Thursday.

Under the bill sponsored by Rep. Henry Fincher, D-Cookeville, anyone with a handgun carry permit could also transport loaded shotguns and rifles in their cars. Fincher told the panel current law mischaracterizes what is a loaded weapon.

"We think of a loaded weapon being a chambered weapon, one that's ready to fire," he said. "Loaded under state law right now basically means capable of being loaded quickly. If you have a magazine in the back ... and a rifle in the front, that's a loaded weapon."

Fincher said the current law has led to at least one instance where police confiscated the unloaded bolt-action hunting rifle of a person on his way home from a shooting range.

By tying the proposal to people holding handgun carry permits that require background checks and safety training, Fincher said the proposal will weed out criminals and people likely to engage in nighttime "road hunting."

Fincher said after the hearing that he was undeterred that an Alabama man who went on an 11-person killing spree with assault rifles last week also had handgun permits for two pistols he carried with him.

"We've seen these rogue actors, like this fellow in Alabama," he said. "And really, we have two choices: We can either expand the right of good people to carry, or we continue with the failed policies of hoping to keep guns out of the hands of bad actors.

"By putting restrictions on law abiding citizens to have the tools with which to defend themselves, we're sticking our heads in the sand and ignoring reality," he said.

Rep. John Deberry, D-Memphis, was the only member of the panel to vote against sending Fincher's proposal to a full floor vote.

Fincher is also the sponsor of the bill to underscore the right of people to use deadly force if they are threatened with bodily harm in situations like attempted carjackings. But Fincher said the proposal only goes so far.

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"If you don't have the presumption that they're going to use deadly force on you, you can't go and shoot them for taking your personal property," Fincher said. "Much as they might deserve it, you still can't do that."

Fincher said the change is needed to keep "overzealous prosecutors" at bay.

Rep. Joshua Evans, R-Greenbrier, is the sponsor of the bill to prohibit the Safety Department from collecting information on handguns used in training courses required to obtain a carry permit.

Evans said the department for a short time asked for serial numbers from the guns used in the training courses, though it quickly rescinded that requirement. The remaining information about the make of the gun wasn't being used for any law enforcement purpose, he said.

"We're taking away something that isn't used right now," he said.

Rep. Larry Turner, D-Memphis, cast the lone vote against Evans' bill.

Current and retired judges would still have to complete annual training requirements for the proposal to allow them to carry their guns wherever law enforcement officers can, said the bill's sponsor Rep. Johnny Shaw, D-Bolivar.

The House this week voted to remove a thumbprint requirement for firearms purchases, and several further gun bills are in committees this week. They include measures to expand areas where handguns can be carried to establishments where alcohol is served and in state parks and wildlife areas.

A special Senate subcommittee on firearms and ammunition was scheduled to take up several of the companion measures on Wednesday.

___

On the Net:

Read HB0390, HB0070, HB0046 and HB0082 at: http://www.capitol.tn.gov

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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