Gun people don’t like being told what to do.
Correction on that. They don’t necessarily mind being told what to do by people they respect so long as the effort isn’t by force of law. For example, the best names in the gun community can tell people to lock up their vehicle guns and no one really bats an eye. After all, even if it’s issued as a command, it’s still just a piece of advice that people can dismiss if it doesn’t fit their needs.
Yet when a lawmaker creates a bill mandating that very thing, well, it’s not a good thing.
State Rep. Mark White is searching for a remedy to calm Republicans’ nerves over his legislation requiring weapons to be secured when kept in vehicles.
White, an East Memphis Republican, put House Bill 801 on hold in April this year because of consternation it would make criminals out of law-abiding Tennesseans who have guns stolen from their cars.
The measure would have created a Class A misdemeanor for leaving a firearm or ammunition unattended or with a person under 18 in a car or boat, if the gun is not locked within a trunk, glove box or interior of the car of boat. Violations would have been punishable by a $500 fine.
White previously voted for a bill that would allow people to store firearms in the truck of their vehicle, even if they didn’t have a permit. Now, he’s arguing that his efforts then and now aren’t at odds with one another.
“I voted for that and I think it’s a good bill,” White said. “But that doesn’t release me from the responsibility as a responsible citizen that when I get out of my car at night, either take (the weapon) in the house or secure it in some type of a lock box where it cannot be stolen out of my car. That’s just common sense.”
White said he plans to put the bill back on notice in 2020 but acknowledged he will have “work with the majority” to see how the language can be structured. He is considering amending the bill to create a fine for people who fail to report gun thefts from their cars in cases where those weapons are used in a crime. Reporting the matter to police could exempt them from a fine, he said.
“It wouldn’t be a criminal offense, but it would be a monetary fine if you don’t secure your gun,” White said.
Honestly, it doesn’t matter if it’s a criminal offense or not. It’s still a case of the law dictating what people have to do, and that’s the issue.
Look, I think people shouldn’t leave unsecured firearms in their vehicles overnight. Too many get stolen for me to be comfortable with people doing that and I’m not going to pretend otherwise.
However, my comfort isn’t someone else’s responsibility.
Besides, not every weapon left in a car overnight was left out of malice or indifference. People get distracted and people have things come up that gets in the way of their plans.
For example, someone brings in the groceries, but the phone rings before they can get their firearm out of the car. They answer the phone and it’s someone who wants to talk and they can’t get out of the conversation without being rude, then their child falls down a couple of steps and is hurt. Nothing serious, but that distracts them even further. Next, it’s time to cook dinner. On and on the hectic afternoon continues and you still haven’t made it out to retrieve your firearm and it’s almost bed time.
I get it.
Yet White’s bill would punish you for having life happen to you, and that’s a huge problem for me. Frankly, I hope the bill dies in committee and is never heard from again.