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Tennessee Legislature Considering Unnecessary Gun Bills That Would Compromise Public Safety at Taxpayer Expense

March 9, 2017

The Tennessee Legislature is currently considering unnecessary legislation that would make it easy for out-of-state groups to sue Tennessee cities and communities over public safety laws. House Bill 508 and Senate Bill 445 would allow out-of-state special interest groups and trial lawyers to sue Tennessee cities that attempt to enforce or adopt solutions to reduce gun violence in their communities. These bills would further tie the hands of mayors and police chiefs and punish them for trying to do their jobs: looking for legal solutions to protect their local communities.

Simply put, HB 508 and SB 445 are designed to fill the pockets of out-of-state special interest groups and trial attorneys at the expense of Tennessee taxpayers. If passed and signed into law, these bills would unnecessarily punish and intimidate localities and local officials who attempt to address gun violence.

Current Tennessee law on this subject is already dangerous and overrides common sense. It largely prevents cities and local communities from adopting local solutions to gun violence, and it already allows Tennesseans to sue if local laws violate state law.

Yet, HB 508 and SB 445 would go a step further. They would explicitly allow out-of-state parties to sue Tennessee cities. Not only is this egregious policy unnecessary, but it would prioritize out-of-state interests over the needs of local officials who know their communities best.

This legislation is designed to penalize cities and their taxpayers. It would require courts to award out-of-state groups the greatest possible amount of attorney’s fees, damages and court costs. The bills would incentivize frivolous lawsuits from out-of-state interest groups looking for an easy payday. What’s more, HB 508 and SB 445 would make taxpayers foot these outrageous bills.

The bills don’t stop there.

They would force cities and towns to allow guns into government offices, certain recreational facilities and other public buildings – even if those localities don’t want them there.

There is dangerous precedent for this type of legislation in other states. Pennsylvania passed a similar law and, just after it went into effect, lawsuits were filed against four cities in that state – including a lawsuit filed by a gun lobby group based in Texas. If these bills are passed, we can expect similar lawsuits from out-of-state groups to be filed against Tennessee cities.

Tennessee mayors and police chiefs know how to best protect their citizens, and HB 508 and SB 445 are designed to intimate them from even trying to keep their communities safe. These bills are a lose-lose for Tennessee. They would put communities at risk and cost Tennessee taxpayers.

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