The state of Tennessee’s newest gun law officially goes into effect Thursday, July 1.
Earlier this year, the Tennessee General Assembly passed a bill that Gov. Bill Lee signed that allows Tennesseans to carry a firearm without a permit, commonly referred to as “constitutional carry.” The law allows for persons 21 years of age or older to carry a handgun, both concealed and open, in the Volunteer State without a permit. The law also applies to military members between the ages of 18 and 20.
In order to facilitate this, the law removes the misdemeanor offense of carrying without a permit for those people. However, it also increases punishments for certain gun crimes, like theft of firearms. The law increases the penalty for the theft of a firearm from a misdemeanor to a felony and requires six months incarceration for that crime instead of the current 30-day consequence.
The law also prohibits felons convicted of possessing a firearm from getting early release.
The bill was introduced to mixed reactions, with gun control groups like Moms Demand Action vocally against it. Even law enforcement agencies, including the Tennessee Sheriff’s Association came out against the legislation, saying the legislation did not include enough precautions. Additionally, the Tennessee Association of Chiefs of Police and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigations expressed opposition to the bill.
The Tennessee Firearms Association recommended individuals who want or need to carry a firearm not to rely on the new legislation and instead suggest they obtain the enhanced handgun permit, which offers “the greatest number of options on how you can carry and where and when you can carry a handgun."
“While there are some who might be eligible to do so, you would subject yourself to the risk of ‘stop and inquiry’ by law enforcement to see if you meet all of the conditions imposed by the law,” TFA said in a statement. “Second, there are several places such as public parks where many may assume that they could carry under the Governor’s permitless carry law when in fact it is a criminal act to do so.”
The organization said the bill was not a “true constitutional carry bill,” calling it a “weak option” that legislators “paraded as the crowning achievement of the 2021 legislative season.” The group also characterized the law as “a half-step toward the objective.”
Tennessee joins 18 other states in the union enacting similar “constitutional carry” legislation.
According to the fiscal note attached to the bill, legislators estimated the state will lose about $2.6 million dollars as a result of the bill, coming from a combination of lost permit fees and increased incarceration costs.
There are still limits to who can carry a firearm under the new law, including individuals convicted of certain crimes.
Per the law, it will be a Class B misdemeanor for someone to carry a firearm if they have been convicted of stalking, have two or more DUI convictions within 10 years or one DUI conviction within five years, have been committed to a hospital or mental institution by a judge or deemed mentally unfit or otherwise prohibited from possessing a firearm by federal law as it existed Jan. 1, 2021.
There are also concerns about the bill locally.
Rich Brooks, owner of Templar Shooting Sports, says the bill only causes more confusion for gun owners and is not truly a constitutional carry law.
“The law states that, if you’re carrying a pistol without a permit, you have to otherwise qualify to have a permit,” he said. “My personal opinion is it’s not doing the people of Tennessee any favors. It’s creating more confusion. Not everybody is ready to take that handgun out in public, because they haven’t been taught to safely use it.”
Due to the intricacies of the bill, Brooks said he recommends gun owners to continue their training and potential gun owners to go ahead and take the permit courses so that they will have better knowledge and prevent any personal liability issues that may come with the new law.
“I recommend they get their permit anyhow,” he said. “They more understand the legal liabilities of carrying if they take that class.”
Local area residents can take those permit classes at his business if they need to, he said.
“We have a handgun permit course, we have advanced courses, and pretty soon we’re going to be offering some outdoor courses as well,” Brooks told The News. “If people have questions, they can come see me or my staff, and we’re happy to talk to people about it.