In General Assembly, bill to allow gun carry without a permit surfaces – Tennessee Lookout (2023)

  • Politics

The “constitutional carry” or permitless gun carry legislation put on hold by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 is rising again in the Tennessee Legislature, likely to set off a stirring debate as the session starts Feb. 8.

Rep. Bruce Griffey, a Paris Republican, is sponsoring House Bill 18, which would exempt people from obtaining a state concealed-carry permit if they legally possess a firearm and are not prohibited from purchasing a firearm in Tennessee.

The legislation, which is carried in the Senate by Sen. Joey Hensley, a Hohenwald Republican, is different from the bill Gov. Bill Lee brought in 2020 and could revive this year. Griffey could not be reached Monday for comment.

The governor’s legislation, dubbed “constitutional carry”, would allow people to carry a handgun without a permit as long as they are legally allowed by state law. But the governor’s bill also created a new set of penalties for those who use weapons to commit crimes.

Lee announced his permitless carry bill in 2020 amid flagging support for other initiatives but put it on hold when the novel coronavirus struck the state. The governor said last year he expected “constitutional carry” to come back up when the Legislature was not preoccupied with the pandemic.

Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson, who carried the governor’s legislative package, said he hasn’t gotten a “definitive answer” on the permit-less carry bill.

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“I think there are still conversations going on with the administration,” said Johnson, a Franklin Republican. “I think it needs to come from him if he’s going to do that.”

Even though COVID-19 remains a serious problem across the state, with vaccinations reaching only a small percentage of the population so far, Johnson predicted the session, from the standpoint of legislative members, would “look very much like a normal session.”

A House Republican Caucus spokesman referred questions about permit-less carry to the Governor’s Office. And a spokesman for Gov. Lee did not respond to questions Monday.

But House Republican Caucus Chairman Jeremy Faison said, “There’s definitely talks about it.”

The Cosby Republican from the Smoky Mountains said he would “absolutely” support the measure, calling it a “great bill.”

“It really heightened the penalties for people who illegally carry a gun,” Faison said.

The bill-filing deadline for the Senate is Feb. 11, and the House deadline will follow Feb. 17.

Johnson and House Majority Leader William Lamberth could carry a broadly-worded bill on firearms and ammunition, enabling the governor to attach “constitutional carry” legislation later in the session. Lamberth said recently he would let the governor announce any plans to bring such a bill.

Nearly 595,000 Tennesseans held concealed-carry permits four years ago.

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“The constitutional carry bill has been an important bill, specifically for the House for many years, and it is my hope definitely that we will pass that bill this coming session,” said Lamberth, a Portland Republican. “Any time you can expand freedom to protect people’s individual liberties, it’s a good day in Tennessee. I know it will definitely be something we will be focused on.”

House Speaker Cameron Sexton agreed that House Republicans were happy with the “constitutional carry” bill in 2020 when it enhanced penalties for those who possess guns illegally.

“I think it’s a two-way street. We want people to be able to carry who should be able to carry. But those who shouldn’t carry, there should be a tough sentence and a punishment for them, and hopefully that bill will remain where it was last year,” Sexton, a Crossville Republican, said in a recent interview.

Last year’s legislation would have increased penalties for people who steal guns and violent felons who illegally possess handguns.

Some law enforcement officials say gun theft has gone up dramatically since the Legislature adopted the “guns in trunks” bill in 2015, enabling people to keep guns in their vehicles while parked on private property, including businesses’ property.

Despite those measures to further punish illegal gun carry, the bill will draw opposition from Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America and possibly from law enforcement, too.

Moms Demand Action will argue against the measure using a 2019 poll by Survey USA for Everytown for Gun Safety showing 93% of voters support requiring a permit to carry a loaded handgun in public, including 92% of Republicans and 91% of gun-owning households, according to spokesperson Leeann Hewlett.

The same poll found 65% of recent Tennessee voters would be less likely to vote for Gov. Lee if he signs legislation eliminating the requirement to get a handgun permit.

“We’re committed to fighting back against dangerous permit-less carry bills like House Bill 18, which would allow people to carry loaded, hidden guns in public without a background check or any safety training,” Hewlett said, contending the state’s permit systems helps bolster gun safety.

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Findings of 2019 Everytown for Gun Safety survey:

  • 65% of recent Tennessee voters would be less likely to vote for Gov. Bill Lee if he eliminates the requirement to get a handgun permit.
  • 93% of voters support requiring a permit to carry a loaded handgun in public, including 92% of Republicans.
  • The survey interviewed nearly 1,000 voters statewide.

Studies show states that have weakened their handgun permitting laws have seen a 13-15% increase in the violent crime rate and an 11% increase in handgun homicide rates, according Hewlett.

People would be able to carry handguns without a permit in areas where children play, including parks, nature trails, campgrounds, “and that’s just not something that makes common sense,” she added.

Memphis Police Chief Michael Rallings opposed the bill in 2020, noted 88% of the city’s crimes involved a firearm and said passing such legislation would send the wrong message at a time the city reported 11 interstate shootings. He predicted such a move would increase violent crime in Memphis.

Jerri Green, a Democratic House candidate from East Memphis in 2020, pointed out Republicans were pushing the measure when the National Rifle Association was scheduled to hold its convention in Nashville before the pandemic struck. She predicted the governor would push the permitless carry bill again.

A three-time gun violence survivor and mother of three children, Green said she believes in a “strong” Second Amendment but contended “responsibility” comes with the right to carry weapons. She compared the state permit process to getting a license to drive a vehicle, which could be a deadly weapon, saying training is a necessity for responsible gun ownership.

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“I don’t like the idea of taking my daughter to play soccer or going to shop for groceries and not knowing who has a gun and if they’ve had any training,” said Green, a volunteer with Moms Demand Action.

Even those who handle guns daily, including gun range owners, favor the state’s permitting process to train those who plan to carry firearms, she pointed out.

The Legislature passed a measure in 2019 creating an “enhanced handgun carry permit,” similar to the state permitting process already in place, and adopting a regular handgun permit in which training can be taken online or in person.

Enhanced permits cost $100, and regular permits cost $65 and are good for eight years, with a $50 renewal fee.

In addition to Griffey’s permit-less carry bill, freshman Rep. Todd Warner is sponsoring HB446, which would prohibit the expenditure of state or local funds or use of employees to set up, regulate or enforce any federal law or executive order regulating the sale of firearms, ammunition or firearm accessories if those steps would violate state law of the Tennessee Constitution.

Warner is the subject of an FBI investigation linked to possible illegal coordination of his state campaign and outside expenditures.

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FAQs

Can you carry a gun in Tennessee without a carry permit? ›

As of July 1, 2021, an adult can carry a handgun, openly or concealed, in Tennessee without a permit, if the person is: 21 or older (or 18 or older for certain military members) Tennessee does not require a permit to carry a firearm, whether openly or concealed.

What are the gun laws in Tennessee 2022? ›

This bill allows Tennessee residents 21 years or older (or 18 or older for certain military members) to concealed carry or open carry a handgun in the state of Tennessee, without the requirement of a state issued gun license.

Is Tennessee a constitutional carry state 2022? ›

For over a year now, Governor Bill Lee, several in state Legislative leadership, several state legislators, reporters and others have made the claim that Tennessee is one of the states that is now classified as a “constitutional carry” state. It is not.

Is it legal to carry a gun in Tennessee without a permit 2022? ›

If you want to carry a gun openly or concealed in public in Tennessee, you don't need a permit. As of July 1, 2021, Tennessee is a permitless carry state. However, you still need a permit in certain situations. Anyone convicted of driving under the influence, domestic violence or stalking isn't eligible.

Is it legal to open carry in Tennessee without a title? ›

The bill, known as permitless carry or "constitutional carry" by supporters, allows for open and concealed carrying of handguns without a permit. It applies to people 21 and older, as well as members of the military ages 18 to 20. The measure does not apply to long guns.

Can you open carry in Walmart in Tennessee? ›

The Tennessee Legislature passed a law in 2018 that lets people and businesses allow concealed carry by permit holders but prohibit open carry. The location must post signs that say "concealed firearms by permit only."

Can you carry a round in the chamber in Tennessee? ›

Tennessee's Concealed Carry

In most cases carrying of loaded long guns is illegal. Carry of loaded long guns in private vehicles is permitted with a Handgun Carry Permit(HCP) as long as the firearm has no round chambered 39-17-1307(e).

Can you buy a gun with a DUI in TN? ›

Instead, the constitutional right to bear arms and the ability to exercise that right with a handgun carry permit is essential. However, if you live in Tennessee and are convicted of a DUI, you will not be permitted to obtain a handgun carry permit for five years after a DUI conviction.

What states can you carry a gun without a permit 2022? ›

This means that anyone that can legally carry a weapon may do so without a permit. The Constitutional Carry states are: Alaska (residents only), Arizona, Kansas, Maine, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, Vermont (does not issue permits), West Virginia (residents only), and Wyoming.

Has House Bill 1735 passed in Tennessee? ›

The Tennessee House of Representatives passed House Bill 1735 on April 21, 2022, to allow citizens 18-20 who can legally possess a handgun (and meet other conditions) to obtain an enhanced handgun permit or to carry under the 2021 permitless carry law based on an amendment adopted by the House.

Can you open carry an AR-15 in Tennessee? ›

Tennessee is a licensed open carry state, and if you have an enhanced handgun permit, you can open carry firearms without any issue. However, the state restricts firearms like machine guns and antique weapons, except for officers of the law, military members, and federally licensed owners.

Can a felon own a gun after 10 years in Tennessee? ›

A person who has been convicted of any felony under Tennessee law is prohibited by federal law from possessing any firearm unless that person has obtained a complete restoration firearms rights under state law.

What does Tennessee constitutional carry mean? ›

Real constitutional carry, he says, means citizens being able to carry any firearm they legally possess without any government interference.

Can I carry my gun in the mall in Tennessee? ›

Carry is Allowed:

Any location unless otherwise posted or prohibited by law or permit is required.

Can you shoot on your own property in Tennessee? ›

It is legal under Tennessee state law to discharge a firearm on private property, regardless of whether or not safe shooting structures exist on-site.

Can you wear a gun in Walmart? ›

No limits on concealed guns

Certain state laws "prohibit us from doing a complete ban," even though Walmart stores are private property, the spokesperson added. If someone opts to openly carry a gun into one of its stores, it's up to the store manager's discretion as to how to react.

Can you carry a gun into a restaurant in Tennessee? ›

CHATTANOOGA (WRCB) -- Tennessee's new Guns in Bars law took effect Tuesday. It allows those with a concealed weapons carry permit to pack heat inside bars and restaurants as long as they aren't drinking.

Can you carry a gun hiking in Tennessee? ›

In short, if you have a permit in Tennessee and are hiking the AT in Tennessee, you are generally allowed to carry a handgun with you.

Can you carry with one in the chamber? ›

The basic design of almost every popular self-defense firearm made today is what makes them also inherently safe for carry with one in the chamber. Almost without exception they are equipped with redundant active and passive safeties that keep them from firing unless the trigger is deliberately pulled to the rear.

Is Tennessee a stand your ground state? ›

Tennessee is one of several states with “Stand Your Ground” self-defense laws. You must meet certain conditions to be protected by this law. Self-defense in Tennessee could also be known as “Stand Your Ground”. This legal doctrine is also sometimes referred to as the “castle” doctrine.

What is the difference between concealed carry and enhanced concealed carry in TN? ›

Enhanced permit holders can carry either open or concealed; Concealed permit holders must always cover up the gun. Concealed permit is easier to obtain (less training required, online training allowed, lower application fee). There's no lifetime permit with the Concealed option (lifetime permits are Enhanced only).

Can you drink while carrying a gun in Tennessee? ›

Specifically, Tennessee law prohibits people from carrying a handgun while consuming drugs or alcohol. Possessing a handgun under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance is a Class A misdemeanor in Tennessee.

Can a felon be around a person with a gun? ›

Generally speaking, felons are still allowed to associate with or be around someone who owns a gun. However, this can be complicated if the gun itself is around, or if the person who owns the gun lives with the convicted felon.

Can you carry a gun in a liquor store in Tennessee? ›

Tennessee generally allows the possession of a firearm within the confines of a licensed establishment open to the public where liquor, wine, beer or other alcoholic beverages are served for on-premises consumption unless the possessor is consuming any such alcoholic beverages on the premises.

Can I conceal carry in my car? ›

Concealed Carry Permits: On Your Person, In Your Car

In many states, the same permit that allows concealed carry in general (for example, in a holster covered by a shirt or jacket, or inside a purse) also allows you to carry a concealed gun in your vehicle.

What state has the loosest gun laws? ›

States with the Least Strict Gun Laws

The states with the most lenient gun laws are New Hampshire, South Carolina, Georgia, Louisiana, Maine, Texas, Montana, West Virginia, Alabama, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Alaska, Kansas, South Dakota, Arizona, Kentucky, Missouri, Idaho, Wyoming, and Mississippi.

What state has the best gun laws? ›

Alaska. Alaska does not require a permit, purchase permit, or registration. There are no background checks on private gun sales, and open carry is allowed without a permit.

How does a bill become a law in Tennessee? ›

The Governor may sign the bill; veto it; or allow it to become law without his signature. The Governor is allowed ten days (Sundays excepted) after a bill is presented to him to approve or veto the bill; if he takes no action within that period, the bill becomes a law without his signature.

Can you be 18 and carry a handgun in Tennessee? ›

Tennessee 18-year-olds currently can possess firearms but they cannot carry a handgun unless they are honorably discharged or retired from the U.S. military or they are a member on active duty.

Does Tennessee recognize Indiana handgun carry permit? ›

The following states have established arrangements where they recognize or honor permits or licenses issued by the State of Indiana: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, North Carolina, ...

Is an AK 47 legal in Tennessee? ›

Tennessee law allows individuals with gun permits to carry handguns in state-owned public places, like parks and "natural areas." State law defines a "handgun" as "any firearm with a barrel length of less than twelve inches" that is "designed, made or adapted" to be fired with one hand.

Are AR-15 illegal in TN? ›

Harris, who's also the executive director of the Tennessee Firearms Association, says although there's a lot of freedom for Tennesseans to own semi-automatics, the law is layered. Anyone eligible who's at least 18 can walk into a gun store and purchase a shotgun or rifle — like the popular AR-15.

Can you carry gun in car Tennessee? ›

Tennessee does not require a permit to carry an openly or concealed handgun in public. Tennessee also expressly allows a person to carry any firearm, loaded or unloaded, in a lawfully possessed motor vehicle or boat if he or she is not prohibited from purchasing or possessing a firearm.

What states can you carry a gun without a permit 2022? ›

This means that anyone that can legally carry a weapon may do so without a permit. The Constitutional Carry states are: Alaska (residents only), Arizona, Kansas, Maine, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, Vermont (does not issue permits), West Virginia (residents only), and Wyoming.

Is TN a Constitutional Carry? ›

Tennessee passed a law last year allowing most adults to carry a handgun, openly or concealed, without a permit. Many people referred to the law as constitutional carry.

Can you open carry in Walmart in Tennessee? ›

The Tennessee Legislature passed a law in 2018 that lets people and businesses allow concealed carry by permit holders but prohibit open carry. The location must post signs that say "concealed firearms by permit only."

Can you keep a gun in your glove box in Tennessee? ›

Guns in trunks law

When a firearm is stored in the trunk of a parked car, it is legally allowed. It must be locked and out of sight. It can also be kept in the glovebox or a container provided it is in the car, not visible and locked.

Can you carry in a bar in Tennessee? ›

Can you carry a concealed firearm in bars and restaurants that serve alcohol in Tennessee? Yes, without a permit, unless posted and provided you don't consume any alcohol.

Can you carry a gun in a mall in TN? ›

Carry is Allowed:

Any location unless otherwise posted or prohibited by law or permit is required.

Can I conceal carry in my car? ›

Concealed Carry Permits: On Your Person, In Your Car

In many states, the same permit that allows concealed carry in general (for example, in a holster covered by a shirt or jacket, or inside a purse) also allows you to carry a concealed gun in your vehicle.

What state has the loosest gun laws? ›

States with the Least Strict Gun Laws

The states with the most lenient gun laws are New Hampshire, South Carolina, Georgia, Louisiana, Maine, Texas, Montana, West Virginia, Alabama, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Alaska, Kansas, South Dakota, Arizona, Kentucky, Missouri, Idaho, Wyoming, and Mississippi.

What state has the best gun laws? ›

Alaska. Alaska does not require a permit, purchase permit, or registration. There are no background checks on private gun sales, and open carry is allowed without a permit.

Can a felon own a gun after 10 years in Tennessee? ›

A person who has been convicted of any felony under Tennessee law is prohibited by federal law from possessing any firearm unless that person has obtained a complete restoration firearms rights under state law.

Has House Bill 1735 passed in Tennessee? ›

The Tennessee House of Representatives passed House Bill 1735 on April 21, 2022, to allow citizens 18-20 who can legally possess a handgun (and meet other conditions) to obtain an enhanced handgun permit or to carry under the 2021 permitless carry law based on an amendment adopted by the House.

Can you shoot on your own property in Tennessee? ›

It is legal under Tennessee state law to discharge a firearm on private property, regardless of whether or not safe shooting structures exist on-site.

Can you wear a gun in Walmart? ›

No limits on concealed guns

Certain state laws "prohibit us from doing a complete ban," even though Walmart stores are private property, the spokesperson added. If someone opts to openly carry a gun into one of its stores, it's up to the store manager's discretion as to how to react.

Can you carry a gun in a liquor store in Tennessee? ›

Tennessee generally allows the possession of a firearm within the confines of a licensed establishment open to the public where liquor, wine, beer or other alcoholic beverages are served for on-premises consumption unless the possessor is consuming any such alcoholic beverages on the premises.

Can you carry a gun hiking in Tennessee? ›

In short, if you have a permit in Tennessee and are hiking the AT in Tennessee, you are generally allowed to carry a handgun with you.

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