Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Haslam, who tried to soothe gun supporters by saying he could accept doing away with state handgun permits, battled a barrage Thursday from critics who called the proposal “irresponsible” and “stupid.”

Haslam got caught this week in Tennessee’s long-running skirmish over gun rights, an issue he said he never intended to put at the forefront of the campaign. He was asked at several campaign stops about his assurances to the Tennessee Firearms Association on Monday that if elected he would sign a bill to eliminate a requirement to obtain a permit to carry handguns in public.

Democratic opponent Mike McWherter told a news conference that the Knoxville mayor’s position was “over the top,” newspaper editorials questioned what motivated the comments and term-limited Gov. Phil Bredesen warned that such a move could hurt the state’s ability to recruit businesses.

Haslam stressed he wouldn’t introduce such a measure, telling supporters at a breakfast meeting in Memphis, “I’m in favor of leaving the handgun permit requirements the way they are now.”

Bredesen told reporters after an event in Nashville that governors shouldn’t accept every legislative initiative.

“Just because the Legislature does something stupid doesn’t mean the governor has to go along with it,” said Bredesen, a Democrat.

Bredesen said he counted the carry permits among issues that hurt efforts to attract businesses.

“When we’re doing as well as we are with recruiting companies and really on a roll, I really hate to have this anchor dragging behind us,” he said. “Which is people doing some things that most reasonable Americans would think are not consistent with American values.”

There are about 300,000 handgun carry permit holders in Tennessee. To qualify, they must pass a handgun safety course and pay a $115 fee. Permits are revoked for felony convictions and can be suspended for pending criminal charges or for court orders of protection in domestic violence cases.

Source: AP News via Jackson Sun.

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