Permitless Carry, Campus Carry Bills Advance In TN Legislature

Lawmakers in Tennessee continued their work on two big pieces of pro-Second Amendment legislation this week, with House committees giving the nod to a permitless carry bill and a campus carry measure as well, but not without some controversy. During testimony on HB 2817, the permitless carry bill, both Second Amendment advocates and gun control activists raised objections to the current language, though for very different reasons.

“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, said during testimony Tuesday 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 said HB 2817 would put Tennessee behind other permitless carry states because it ties the right to carry to the ability to get a permit rather than tying it to the ability to possess a firearm. He said this could cause confusion among gun owners and could land otherwise law abiding citizens in jail for misunderstanding the law. If lawmakers made this change, he said NAGR would fully support the bill.

The legislation does not make gun control advocates happy, either. Bill Gibbons, president of the Memphis Shelby Crime Commission, told the committee his organization opposes this bill, saying the organization believes it 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. He said Tennessee has a good permit system and getting rid of it likely would increase violent crime. The Memphis Police Department also opposes the legislation.

Memphis Police Director Mike Rallings was on hand to testify in opposition to the bill, which he says could lead to increased violence in the city.

“I fully support the Second Amendment, but we face the challenge of managing the coronavirus pandemic across the state and across the world, and the last thing Tennessee needs is gun legislation that will allow for permitless, unconstitutional handguns that are either concealed or unconcealed without a permit,” said Rallings.

I’m not sure what an unconstitutional handgun looks like, but Rallings will have some opportunities in the future to provide more testimony, so perhaps he can enlighten us the next time he addresses lawmakers on the issue. The simple fact is that there are now 15 states across the country that don’t require a permit in order for legal gun owners to carry, and in no state have we seen a huge spike in violent crime after permitless carry became the law.

A campus carry bill has also passed out of its first committee this week, and the prospects look pretty good for the legislation at the moment. Under the bill as its currently written, carrying on campus would require an enhanced concealed carry license, even if permitless carry legislation is signed into law. Currently, faculty and staff can carry on campus (with some restrictions), but visitors and students are still forbidden to do so.

The bills will face one more committee vote before heading to the floor of the state House. If they pass, they’ll then move over to the state Senate where the committee process will begin again. In the meantime, Tennessee gun owners should be contacting their state representative and state senator to urge them to support these measures.