Live from Music Row Tuesday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – host Leahy welcomed Tennessee State Rep. Rusty Grills (R-Obion) to the newsmaker line to talk about his handgun and air tag bills this session in the Tennessee General Assembly.
Leahy: And we are joined on our newsmaker line now by our very good friend, State Representative Rusty Grills, who represents a district in Northwest Tennessee that includes Obion and Dyer counties and maybe a couple of other areas. State Representative Grills, welcome to The Tennessee Star Report.
Grills: Good morning, Michael. We actually cover Lake County as well.
Leahy: I forgot northwest. Let me apologize to all of your constituents in Lake County. I should have known that.
Grills: Well, if you were watching the weather on December the 10th, we got mentioned quite often because the tornadoes came through. And that’s where those four individuals were killed in Lake County and Obion County, right through there. That maybe triggers the memories.
Leahy: So you make a living as a farmer, is that right?
Grills: That’s correct. Ninth-generation farmer. My dad farmed. His dad farmed. His dad farmed. His dad farmed. We just come on down the pipe like that.
Leahy: Way back when the state of Tennessee was founded and we had the first state legislature, they were almost all farmers. How many farmers are there now?
Grills: It used to be one out of every three people was a farmer. Now it’s one out of every 155.
Leahy: Oh, my goodness. Andy Ogles wants to weigh in here now.
Ogles: Hey, buddy, I think your corner of the state has the most corn planted versus anywhere else in the state. I think I’m right.
Grills: That’s correct. My county where I live is Dyer County. We’re the number one soybean-producing county. And I believe it’s Obion County is the number one for corn production.
Leahy: Very good.
Grills: You know what, when it comes to eating your cows, eating your chickens, we’re feeding them so you all can eat them. How’s that?
Ogles: Where’s the beef?
Grills: That’s what it’s all about. Now, farming is a wonderful life. It may not be on this Biden economy that we’re in now, with the inflation going crazy. I would like to say that a year ago we were buying fertilizer for $300, $330 a ton, and now it’s going to be over $900 a ton. Thank you there, President Biden. We really appreciate all the efforts that you put forward to destroy our economy.
Leahy: Yes, he really is destroying the economy. That’s a 300 percent increase in one year. My goodness.
Grills: Those are real numbers.
Leahy: How do you make money as a farmer in that case?
Grills: I will have to say that things go up, but the commodity prices go up. But you have to just watch your P’s and Q’s. And every farmer is an economist, every farmer is a biologist, every farmer’s mechanic and electrician a weatherman. And just make the best of the situation.
Leahy: What are your big bills that you are promoting in this session of the Tennessee General Assembly?
Grills: I was hoping it was going to be a little bit lighter session last year because last year I was right in the middle of the vaccine mandate. Before it became an issue, I was trying to deal with some of it because governments always have a tendency to overreach.
And who was I? Old Rahm Emanuel said, never let a good crisis go to waste. I was afraid that was going to be an issue, so I was in that fight up until the last day last year. And then this year I have about three bills that are really important to me. One of them is the handgun-to-firearms with a permit.
In Tennessee, everyone assumes that you can carry a long gun if you have a handgun permit, but you really can’t. It’s only for handguns. And we passed a version of constitutional carry last year, but that was really only for handguns as well. But what I’m trying to do is just expand the handgun permit process to include firearms.
Leahy: What’s the status of that bill, A, and then, B, why is that important?
Grills: I don’t believe our Constitution and the Second Amendment only covers handguns. I believe if you can legally own it you should be able to legally carry it.
Leahy: It says the right to bear arms shall not be infringed. And it doesn’t distinguish between a handgun and a long gun.
Grills: No doubt. There’s absolutely no doubt about that. Now, personally, I’m a fan of taking it further than just a handgun permit. I would like to see it be constitutionally carried, but baby steps right now. This is a step in the right direction, in my opinion. That’s a huge deal to me.
Leahy: Where is that bill right now and what are its prospects for passing?
Grills: At 9:00 this morning, it’ll be heard in the Civil Justice subcommittee. I’m thinking we’re okay there. But you never know. Politics has a strange way of making liars out of individuals. I’m optimistic that we’re going to make it through there.
Leahy: Do you have a co-sponsor in the state Senate?
Grills: I do. Kerry Roberts.
Leahy: Oh, our good friend Kerry Roberts.
Grills: That’s correct. Yes, sir. Well, I think he is.
Leahy: You’ve chosen well there. And I think it would seem to me that you’ve got good prospects of getting it through the House and the Senate and onto a final floor vote, it would seem to me.
Grills: Our Speaker seems to be on board with it as well. He’s pretty much in favor of it as well. When the Speaker seems to be okay with it, that’s always a good thing.
Leahy: What other bills are you pushing?
Grills: I don’t know if you’re familiar with these air tags being used to track individuals.
Leahy: Tell us what an air tag is, Representative Grills.
Grill: An air tag is something about the size of an auto cap that works with your iPhone that you can just place on someone or something and follow it to anywhere you want to.
Leahy: So you could place it on somebody and they not know that you’ve placed this little bottle cap-sized air tag that tracks them.
Grills: That is correct. And I have two young girls, and I want to do everything I can do, everything in my power to protect them as they grow older. But you could drop an air tag in a lady’s purse at a restaurant and never lay eyes on her again but follow every move she makes.
And whenever she gets home, in the privacy of her own home, they know where she is and they could follow her every move. And we have very few protections with those types of stalkings. So we’re trying to firm some of that up.
As a matter of fact, I know that’s been coming to be an issue across the country. And I think that this is the only bill in Tennessee that’s dealing with it right now. But I think there’s going to be some other states that are going to be looking into it.
What brought this to my attention is a little girl back home one day told me that she had found one on her vehicle. And I just got to thinking about this and talking to our D.A. And just like, “this is way too easy.”
This is something that we’ve got to deal with. Aggravated stalking, now, I believe you have to be caught twice, harassing or following or whatever you want to say, with someone twice. You get caught doing this once, you’re going to be charged.
Leahy: Grant Henry has a question for you.
Henry: Yes, more of a follow-up.
Grills: Hey, Grant!
Henry: Hi, Representative Grills, how are you doing? Representative, girls are saying these air tags, they are the size of a button and they are accurate within to a few inches of where your person is. And there’s already several counts across the United States of people placing this in places you wouldn’t want them.
There’s a model in New York City, for example, that was tracked for four city blocks from a nightclub one night back to her residence.
There’s been two people in Florida already that have had these placed in their cars and one under their license plate as well, following them home to their address. And this is a major problem across the United States. And I commend Representative Grills here for running something like this.
Leahy: What would your bill do, Representative Grills?
Grills: We’re just going to be able to charge someone with aggravated assault. And working with the D.A.’s confidence as well will give the same penalties for stalking that you would have now over to electronic stalking, if you would. And obviously, we worked quite a while with the D.A.s’ conference to make sure that we didn’t have any adverse effects, because we want individuals to be able to know where their kids are.
We want individuals, if they’ve got a parent that may have Alzheimer’s or dementia, we want them to be able to make sure they can keep up with them. That’s a good thing. But it needs to be done in accordance to the law.
Leahy: How much do these air tags cost Representative Grills?
Listen to the full interview here:
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