Public transit users in Tennessee have much to celebrate this July, as a law that gives them the right to carry their legally obtained firearms on public transportation went into effect. However, anti-gun activists in local governments in Chattanooga, Nashville and Knoxville have forestalled making the changes needed to alert riders that it is legal to carry on board. Instead of ordering new signs and preparing the public for implementation through an awareness campaign, leaders of each transit authority have instead chosen to drag their feet and make cryptic adjustments that serve to confuse riders.
Accordingly, law-abiding gun owners in Tennessee continue to wait for the right to protect themselves and others on public transportation. Even now that the law is on their side, so-called public advocacy groups, who are really gun control advocates, have stepped up to slow the process even further. Beth Joslin Roth, executive director of The Safe Tennessee Project, is leading this charge. Although her website claims, “We support the Second Amendment,” many of the links and reference points therein are taken from openly anti-gun organizations like the Brady Campaign.
The Safe Tennessee Project’s website also says: “We do not advocate confiscating guns. We do not advocate taking guns away from law-abiding citizens.” Okay, so no confiscation—that part is comforting really, but advocating for policies that result in lawbreakers being the only ones who are armed is dangerous in any situation. The alternative proposed by those most concerned with public safety is to install metal detectors to stop anyone from carrying firearms aboard mass transit. In standard fashion, gun rights opponents cried in unison about the utterly outrageous expense of such a proposition removing it from the slate of options.
Before T.C.A. 39-17-1351 was passed, the only people armed around children on those buses were criminals. And that’s the rub, isn’t it?Back to what they “believe.” The Safe Tennessee Project website says, “We do not believe that exaggeration, hyperbole, or political rhetoric are useful and, in fact, stand in the way of meaningful and effective action needed to reduce Tennessee lives lost to bullets.” Sounds great! However, when local news media asked Roth about the proposition of students who take public transportation being onboard with lawfully armed private citizens, she balked in hyperbolic fashion: “There's not going to be any way of knowing whether or not someone's gun is 'authorized' or 'unauthorized.’” Roth’s son is one of as many as 5,600 students that ride the Nashville city bus using a free pass given to public school students in grades 9-12. There are even some younger students approved to ride using this free service.
That fact alone should be cause to support lawful gun owners carrying to protect themselves. Before T.C.A. 39-17-1351 was passed, the only people armed around children on those buses were criminals. And that’s the rub, isn’t it? Moving at a snail’s pace to properly update signage and systems to permit this change stinks of activism in opposition to the law as it stands.
We requested an interview with Roth to discuss her opposition to swift implementation. She was not interested in discussing her organization or previous public statements. In fact, Roth appeared to be more concerned about the fact that other groups stood in opposition, instead of acknowledging that the law is the law.
“Considering the numerous groups that opposed the legislation, perhaps you should interview the police chiefs, city transit associations, or school boards in the cities where children use public transportation to commute to schools,” she said. “On issues of public safety such as this, their opinions are certainly more relevant than mine.”
Similar foot-dragging seems to be occurring in Chattanooga. When asked about the slow pace of implementing the new law there, Lisa Maragnano, executive direct of the Chattanooga Area Regional Transportation Authority, emailed the local newspaper the following quote: “We will comply with the law, we won’t encourage it.”
“We will comply with the law, we won’t encourage it.” – Lisa Maragnano, executive direct of the Chattanooga Area Regional Transportation AuthorityDoes Maragnano really think that criminals need encouragement to carry hidden guns? They do not. Simply updating the signage would lower the incidence of unlawful activity, as criminals usually avoid hardened prey. This isn’t new information; most mass shootings occur exclusively in areas that sport “gun-free zone” type signage.
Chattanooga transit policy has been updated in a cryptic manner: “Weapons are prohibited except as permitted in accordance with T.C.A. 39-17-1351.” No mention is made of the law being a change allowing permit holders to carry guns onboard. That’s not really a helpful update for those looking to stay within the law.
Knoxville transit stations and buses carry signs that utilize the difficult to understand language as well, effectively negating the positive effects that the law was intended to usher in. Leftists engaged in stalling the execution of this law must hate children and think criminals should have more rights than everyday bus riders. What else could explain their refusal to abide by the law as it stands and swiftly enact it in an orderly manner?
Stacy Washington is a decorated Air Force veteran, Emmy-nominated TV personality and host of nationally syndicated radio program “Stacy on the Right,” based in St. Louis. She loves God, guns, and is a member of the NRA, obviously.