The state of Tennessee has a good chance of passing constitutional carry this year. After all, the state legislature is heavily Republican and the governor has made this one of his legislative priorities. If nothing else, lawmakers will back the bill simply to make sure the governor owes them a favor or two.
Constitutional carry is the big want for most state-level gun rights groups, too. Once you have constitutional carry in a state, you’ve probably got plenty of support for any other pro-gun measure you care to name.
Yet in Tennessee, there’s one group that doesn’t seem to be on board with the governor’s plan.
Members of the state senate judiciary committee Tuesday heard testimony from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation on reservations about proposed legislation to allow permit-less handgun carrying in the state.
Permit-less or “Constitutional” carry legislation passed a key committee in Nashville, leading to those 21 or older to be able to carry handguns without a permit. The state senate judiciary committee approved an amendment to the original bill proposed by Gov. Bill Lee.
The amendment stipulates that a person be 21 years old to carry a handgun, unless they are 18 and honorably discharged or retired from the Armed Forces. Those on active duty or members of the National Guard would also be allowed to carry guns without permits.
The TBI opposed the bill, pointing to the nearly 5,500 people who were excluded from permits or had their permits revoked in 2020.
At the senate judiciary committee, TBI Senior Policy Advisor Jimmy Musice offered testimony to this point.
“We don’t have any issue, and support the underlying policy that those that are legally permissible to carry possess a firearm and to defend themselves. What we think, though, is that the permit process allows us to actually do that by knowing if that person is lawful,” Musice said.
The problem is that the permitting process creates an artificial barrier for those who can lawfully possess firearms to further exercise their constitutionally-protected right to bear arms. It basically requires that law-abiding citizens ask their rulers if they may carry their firearms.
Even in a shall-issue state, it’s still asking the government for permission.
As such, law-abiding citizens are forced to undergo a process to get a permit in order to do something they should have already been allowed to do. It delays people from being able to carry, thus putting law-abiding citizens at risk.
Imagine, if you will, someone has reason to believe they’re being targeted for some kind of crime. They see the same vehicles behind them on a regular basis, even if they’re not keeping a particular schedule or they’re varying up their routes to different places. They see people sitting in the same vehicles outside their home or business. Things like that.
The smart money says to carry a gun, yet permits legally bar these folks from doing so without undergoing the lengthy process required.
From the time someone applies for a permit and the time they actually get it, a whole lot can happen.
Meanwhile, those who don’t care about the laws? They operate under no such restriction. The TBI knows this. They just think being able to ask for a permit is somehow going to make the problems all better. It won’t.
It should be noted that a large number of states already have permitless carry and are dealing with the same issues without too much of a problem. The TBI just needs to learn to deal with it.