Tennessee Firearms Association gives thousands to Gawrys campaign

Tennessee Firearms Association gives thousands to Gawrys campaign

Steve Gawrys reported a variety of individual donors on his campaign disclosures, but one organization gave more than $13,000 to help him unseat incumbent Charles Sargent.

While challenger Steve Gawrys reported a variety of individual donors on his campaign disclosures, one organization has managed to give more than $13,000 to help him unseat the House District 61 incumbent Charles Sargent.

The Tennessee Firearms Association, a 501(c)4 out of Nashville, has given $13,280 either in the form of its own PAC – the Tennessee Firearms Association Legislative Action Committee – and through two PACs based out of West Tennessee. The organization said it would like to unseat Sargent.

In an interview on Tuesday afternoon, the TFA said it was backing Gawrys in the House District 61 race because of its dislike for incumbent Rep. Charles Sargent (R-Franklin).

“We worked in 2014 and 2016 to defeat Charles Sargent because he doesn’t have a strong history or acceptable history of supporting Second Amendment issues in Tennessee,” TFA executive director John Harris said.

Started in the 1990s, the TFA is a not-for-profit organization. According to its website, the group wants to remain focused on the Bill of Rights in the Constitution and provisions in the state constitution that have emphasis on the Second and Tenth Amendments.

Harris explained the TFA looked at Sargent’s voting recording, claiming he had a hand in derailing legislation that was assigned to the House of Representatives finance or finance subcommittees. Earlier this year, the Williamson County chapter of the Tennessee Firearms Association hosted a town hall meeting and debate for the contenders of the House District 61 seat, with questions mainly centered around Second Amendment issues.

“He’s a legislator that says one thing and does another,” Harris said. “He engages in leadership shenanigans and using the committee.”

While not naming a specific bill they took issue with, Harris said it was an accumulation of action. He did mention one bill in 2014 that died in subcommittee in the House. According to the state’s bill tracker, HB2409 failed 10-1 before it made it to the full committee.

According to the bill summary, it would have allowed only those who would want to carry a handgun concealed to be required to have a handgun permit. It would have also allowed for the conversion of handgun carry permit upon its expiration to a concealed carry permit by regular renewal process. This would have amended TCA Title 10, Chapter 7; Title 33; Title 38; Title 39; Title 40 and Title 70.

Although Gawrys in the past has called Sargent misleading on gun issues, the National Rifle Association has given Sargent an A rating and gave its formal endorsement.

Sargent said in a press release on Tuesday afternoon he felt what Gawrys said about him and on the issue of gun rights among other topics was misinformation.

“Legislative records are available online, including video from each and every committee hearing and floor session. It’s astounding that he thinks he can get away with just lying about all of these important issues,” Sargent said. “You have to question the motivations of a person like Steve Gawrys who is willing to say or do anything to try to get elected to public office. That’s a dangerous thing.”

During 2016, the TFA gave Gawrys money in the first quarter through its PAC in the amount of $7,500. In the second quarter, the TFA gave money to the TN8PAC, based out of Bells, Tennessee, in Crockett County. The group gave $7,000 to the PAC, which turned around and gave Gawrys $5,000.

A similar pattern happened with the Tennessee Seventh Coalition PAC, out of Big Rock, Tennessee, in Stewart County. The PAC’s only contributor this past quarter was the TFA in the amount of $2,000. Of that donation, Gawrys received $750 with the rest going to four other candidates including Rep. Jeremy Durham.

In accordance to campaign finance rules, a PAC may give a maximum of $7,600 per election to candidate. Primaries, runoffs and general elections are considered separate elections.

Out of the two quarters of fundraising, Gawrys has raised a total of $35,180. When the Home Page asked if he was aware of that the majority of his PAC money came from one organization, he explained he did not.

“Of course not,” he said. “I have no idea what they do with their money. Perhaps you should call them.”

The TFA has not given any other money to any other Williamson County candidates, but has given to a dozen more candidates across the state.

Emily West covers Franklin and Williamson County government and schools for Home Page Media Group. Contact her at emily@franklinhomepage.com. Follow her on Twitter via @emwest22.

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