Tennessee’s current Constitutional Carry bill, House Bill 2817 is making some progress, but both Second Amendment activists and gun control proponents are not pleased by the bill — albeit for different reasons.
House Majority Leader William Lamberth is sponsoring this bill which allows an individual to carry a handgun without a license provided that they are able to qualify for one. According to the The Center Square “a person who does not meet the state’s list of qualifications to carry or a person who did something that would have a permit revoked would not be allowed to carry a firearm under this bill.”
The current provisions in the bill do not allow nonresidents to carry without a permit.
State Representative James Van Huss, who supports the bill, conceded that the bill is not a clean constitutional carry bill due to its restrictions, but he still believes that it is a step forward.
Tennessee’s list of disqualifiers for carrying a firearm is more extensive than what federal law stipulates for firearm possession. This has caused some Second Amendment advocates to declare that this bill is not a clean Constitutional Carry bill.
“I’ve got some pretty good news for the folks who just testified before me [against the bill], because this is not true constitutional carry,” DJ Parten, the southeast regional director for the National Association for Gun Rights, declared during a testimony on May 26, 2020 in front of the House Judiciary Committee. “… True constitutional carry is simple and straightforward: If you can legally possess a firearm, you should legally be able to carry it openly or concealed without a permit.”
Parten claimed that HB 2817 would have Tennessee lag behind other Constitutional Carry states because it binds the right to carry to the ability to acquire a permit instead of tying it to the ability to possess a firearm. He believes that this flaw could cause confusion among gun owners and get otherwise lawful citizens imprisoned for misunderstanding the law. If lawmakers addressed this change, Parten said NAGR would fully get behind the bill.
Unsurprisingly, the bill makes gun control unhappy. Bill Gibbons, president of the Memphis Shelby Crime Commission, informed the committee that his organization opposes the bill, because they are of the opinion that the bill “will embolden people to illegally carry firearms because police would have no basis to stop them and ask them for a permit, which they can do under current law.”
Gibbons noted that Tennessee has a good permit system and scrapping it would likely increase violent crime. The Memphis Police Department also expressed his opposition to the bill.
Under the bill, individuals who break certain gun laws would also face stiffer penalties. For instance, the mandatory minimum sentencing for firearm theft would be increased from 30 days to 180 days.
The legislation went through the House Judiciary Committee, 16-7, on May 26 and was passed on to the Finance, Ways & Means Committee for passage.
On May 27, the Constitutional Protections & Sentencing Subcommittee acted on several pieces of gun legislation, some of which would address concerns of gun rights advocates, and sent them to the full Judiciary Committee.
Hopefully, elected officials understand NAGR’s concerns and modiy the bill so as to make it a clean Constitutional Carry bill.