NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- Republican Gov. Bill Haslam says the exclusion of college campuses is key to an agreement on a bill to allow employees to store their firearms in vehicles parked at work.
The governor told reporters after a speech to a Nashville Republican group on Tuesday that he expects lawmakers to craft a compromise on the measure that was the subject of much discord earlier this year.
The business lobby opposes the measure backed by the National Rifle Association on the basis that it would intrude on their property rights. Gun advocates argue that banning guns in company lots effectively prevents workers from being armed during their commute.
Haslam said his administration won't take a lead on the issue but said it will fight to keep educational institutions out of the final version.
"We will definitely not offer a bill on this," Haslam said. "It's not one of the issues of primary importance to us in this session."
Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, has announced he will push for an early compromise on the measure in hopes of pushing the contentious issue out of the limelight. Unlike the early drafts of last session's bill, the new version would apply only to people with state-issued handgun carry permit.
The Kingsport Times-News reported that Ramsey said at a luncheon at Northeast State Community College in Blountville earlier this week that opponents conjure up nightmare scenarios that he doesn't believe would come to pass if the measure becomes law.
"If we passed this bill tomorrow, you wouldn't know the difference the next day," Ramsey said. "We may exempt our schools, that's fine, but even then we're talking about public parking lots... There's got to be a way to keep it in a car legally."
Higher education officials and campus police chiefs have spoken out against allowing guns on campus.
"Why do you want to have a gun?" Wilsie Bishop, vice president and chief operating officer of East Tennessee State University, asked Ramsey at the luncheon.
"Self-protection," Ramsey responded. "There are nuts in this world, but I'm not one of them."
Ramsey told reporters in Nashville recently that enacting the law on storing guns in vehicles would only enshrine what is common practice now, meaning the concerns raised by large employers like FedEx and Volkswagen may be misplaced.
"I will guarantee you there are gun-carry permit holders that have a firearm in their car in their parking lot as we're sitting here speaking," he said. "All we're doing is making those people legal."