By Tim Ghianni
NASHVILLE, Tenn (Reuters) - Tennessee residents who hold permits that allow them to carry handguns will be able to take their weapons to work as long as they leave them locked in their cars, the result of legislation passed on Thursday by the state's House.
Following the Senate earlier in the month, the House passed the bill 72-22 after about an hour's debate, despite reservations from the business community. The bill was dubbed "guns-in-trunks" because permit holders could keep guns in car trunks.
Governor Bill Haslam will get the bill next week, and will likely sign it, according to his spokesman. If it is enacted, it will reverse current Tennessee law that makes it legal for any business or government body to prohibit possession of weapons - locked in the trunk or otherwise - on their property.
Jeremy Faison, a Republican state representative who sponsored the legislation, said 400,000 "law-abiding citizens" had gone through the process of obtaining handgun carry permits.
"The least we can do is allow them to keep this gun locked in their car as they go to work and carry on their daily lives in the state of Tennessee," he said.
The bill is one of several pro-gun laws that have been proposed in some states since last December, when a gunman shot and killed 20 children and six adults at a school in Newtown, Connecticut.
The massacre inflamed the debate over gun ownership in the United States, with President Barack Obama and others calling for stronger gun control and the National Rifle Association and other gun advocates arguing that more weapons were the answer to gun violence.
Bill Ozier, chairman of the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said the bill could impact future job growth in the state and corporate relocations into Tennessee.
"This is a subject that's important to them, and when they decide if they are going to expand a new operation, they might look at another state that's not as gun friendly," Ozier said.
Faison said he believes the bill strikes a balance between employees' need to protect themselves and employers who feel responsibility to protect those on their property.
"We want to respect and honor both of these rights and ensure that ultimately Tennesseans are able to protect themselves and those who work for them," said Faison.
(Reporting By Tim Ghianni; Editing by Mary Wisniewski)