Tennessee lawmakers have again introduced legislation that undermines Tennessee’s handgun carry permitting system and incentivizes people to carry loaded handguns in public without a permit. The Constitutional Protections and Sentencing Subcommittee will hold a hearing on the bill on Jan. 30, where volunteers with Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America will testify. Last year, similar permitless carry legislation was opposed by law enforcement organizations.
A poll conducted in 2017 showed that 93 percent of Tennessee voters – including 93 percent of Republicans, 88 percent of gun owners and 89 percent of current permit holders – support the state’s current permit requirement for carrying a handgun in public. In fact, a 2017 district survey conducted by House Speaker Rep. Glen Casada found that nearly 86 percent of his constituents supported Tennessee’s permitting process. When releasing the results, Speaker Casada said, “the 2017 survey shows that you are strong supporter of our Second Amendment and support the current permitting process that our state now has in place.”
By reducing the punishment for illegal carrying to just a small fine, and blocking law enforcement from enforcing the law, the bill effectively incentivizes permitless carry and threatens public safety in Tennessee. The need for this bill is unclear, as there is no evidence that the current law is being enforced improperly. The few states that have eliminated their permitting requirement have seen a substantial increase in firearm violence:
- Since Arizona enacted permitless carry legislation in 2010, the annual total of aggravated assaults committed with a firearm in the state increased by 44 percent.
- After Missouri passed a permitless carry bill in January 2017, the city of St. Louis experienced a 23 percent increase in aggravated assaults with a gun in 2017 over the total in 2016.
Last year, not a single state enacted permitless carry ― in fact, 17 states rejected permitless carry legislation in 2018 alone. This includes several where Republican governors have opposed permitless carry in recent years. Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin vetoed a permitless carry bill last May after a coalition of 50 state associations, universities, business owners and law enforcement organizations opposed the legislation. And in Montana, Governor Steve Bullock cited concerns from law enforcement in his veto of permitless legislation in his state. This month, Georgia’s Republican House Speaker David Ralston expressed opposition to permitless carry legislation due to a lack of support from House members as well as their gun-owning constituents.
If you are interested in learning more about permitless carry and how it would threaten public safety in Tennessee, please don’t hesitate to reach out.