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ICYMI: Tennessee Senate Judiciary Committee Passes Dangerous Bill Lowering the Age to Carry a Firearm Without a Permit from Twenty-One to Eighteen; Senate Scheduled to Continue Hearings on Important Gun Bills Today 

March 22, 2023

Yesterday, Tennessee lawmakers in the Senate Judiciary Committee advanced SB1503, a dangerous piece of legislation that lowers the age for permitless, concealed or open carry of loaded handguns in public from 21 to 18. The next stop for SB1503 is a hearing in the Senate Finance Committee. 

Among the testimonies in yesterday’s hearing, Cathy Barnett, a volunteer with the Tennessee chapter of Moms Demand Action addressed lawmakers stating, “It’s your job to advance the safety and public welfare of Tennesseans. Those of you who support SB 1503 must be aware we are in the middle of a public health crisis that has gotten worse on your watch. Instead of protecting Tennessee, this body has been relaxing gun laws and moving us to guns everywhere.” 

This proposed expansion of permitless carry is dangerous and short-sighted. Research shows that: 

  • 18 to 20-year-olds commit gun homicides at triple the rate of adults 21 years and older. 
  • According to a 2019 poll, 93 percent of Tennesseeans surveyed – including 92 percent of Republicans, and 91 percent of gun owners – supported the permit requirement. 
  • Guns are the leading cause of death among children and teens in Tennessee. Tennessee has experienced a dramatic increase in the rate of gun deaths in recent years, increasing by 52 percent between 2012 and 2021. 
  • New research has also revealed that road rage shootings are at the highest level since 2018 and that states with permitless carry have by far the highest rate of road rage shootings with injuries or deaths. In fact, permitless carry states have nearly triple the rate of road rage shooting victimization than those states with the most protective standards. 

Republican lawmakers are justifying the passage of this bill based on a court case, Beeler v. Long, that has not been fully litigated — currently, there is not a federal court decision on the age restriction for permitless carry in Tennessee. Rather, the Attorney General, the Commissioner of Public Safety, and Homeland Security have decided to settle the claims of a firearms interest group. However, the court has not yet accepted this settlement

The Senate will continue hearings on three gun bills today including:

  • SB1029 — which would help prevent guns from falling into the wrong hands by requiring secure storage of unattended firearms in motor vehicles and boats.
  • SB822 — which would shield the gun industry from liability for the injuries their products cause. 
  • SB1325 — which allows school teachers who have enhanced concealed carry permits issued by the state of Tennessee to carry a firearm on school grounds. 

Statistics about gun violence in Tennessee are available here, and Everytown’s Gun Law Rankings – which show how Tennessee’s  gun laws compare to those of other states – are available here. If you are interested in speaking with a Tennessee Moms Demand Action or Students Demand volunteer, or a policy expert please reach out to [email protected].

If you're a member of the media, please send inquiries to [email protected]