Tennessee Takes Up Constitutional Carry Bills

Tennessee Takes Up Constitutional Carry Bills
MikeGunner / Pixabay

Permitless carry measures have already been signed into law in Utah and Montana this year, and a number of other states have Constitutional Carry bills progressing through their legislatures. Now lawmakers in Tennessee are taking up the issue, and given the fact that Constitutional Carry has the backing of Gov. Bill Lee, prospects for passage look pretty good.

SB 0765 and it’s companion, HB 0786, would create an exemption in state law for the offense of unlawful carrying of a firearm, as long as the gun owner has a legal right to own the firearm, meets the qualifications for an enhanced carry license, and is in a place where they have a right to be.

For some Second Amendment activists, like John Harris of the Tennessee Firearms Association, the legislation doesn’t go far enough.

Harris doesn’t believe SB0765, the bill endorsed by Lee and filed by Senator Jack Johnson, is a true Constitutional Carry bill. He, along with other gun advocates in his group are more keen on other bills also filed during the legislative session.

“It doesn’t fully make Tennessee a Constitutional carry state or a permit-less carry state, but it’s an improvement over where we are now, slightly,” Harris explained.

It’s true that the language of the bills backed by the governor still require those carrying without a license to be eligible for an enhanced carry license, and I have to admit I’m a little confused about how that would work in practice. The legislation makes it clear, for instance, that you don’t have to actually apply for your enhanced license in order lawfully carry, but is silent as to whether or not you’d have to take the required eight-hour training course in order for the state to recognize your eligibility.

It seems like that would be an impossible standard to enforce, unless gun owners are supposed to carry around their training certificate instead of a carry license. Hopefully we’ll get some clarity on what “eligibility” actually means in the legislation as it progresses through the statehouse.

Harris says that, even with his concerns over the language of the bill, it’s still a step in the right direction and he dismisses the idea that it will lead to more violent crime.

He said the states that have already adopted a similar law, that doesn’t require gun owners to have a permit, haven’t repealed or placed more restrictions.

He said he “doesn’t buy” the argument that passing the bill into law wouldn’t make crime more rampant and people more violent.

“They just argue from this emotional perspective of, well, we feel like that’s the right thing to do,” Harris said. “The people that are going to carry illegally or with criminal content, I guarantee you, not a single one of them ever laid the gun down and said, ‘Now, I can’t commit the crime I was going to commit to today because I haven’t got my permit yet. I’ll wait another couple of weeks that that just doesn’t happen.’”

Gun control groups like Moms Demand Action are of course opposed to the bill, though activist Jodi Scheer told WBIR-TV that the organization “is not against the Second Amendment.”

Yeah, right. It’s funny how the supposed Second Amendment supporters at Moms Demand Action have never run across a gun control bill that they believe violates the right to keep and bear arms. You’d think if they weren’t against the Second Amendment they would have found at least one gun control bill over the years that they’d object to, but that hasn’t happened.

At the very least, the carry bills backed by Gov. Lee offer legal gun owners the opportunity to lawfully carry without obtaining a government-issued permission slip, and while I would like to see more clarity around the issue of eligibility, that’s not an insurmountable problem. In fact that can be easily addressed in the legislative process. The bigger issue at the moment is ensuring the passage of some form of permitless or Constitutional Carry, and I hope Tennessee gun owners are keeping in contact with their legislators and encouraging them to strengthen the Second Amendment rights of residents.


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