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Tennessee House to Hold Hearing on Bill That Would Undermine the Handgun Carry Permit System

February 19, 2019

Tomorrow, the Constitutional Protections and Sentencing Subcommittee is scheduled to hold a hearing on HB 1264, a bill that attempts to move Tennessee closer to becoming a permitless carry state. Volunteers with the Tennessee chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America and Students Demand Action for Gun Sense in America will attend the hearing and will be available for interviews.

This bill is intentionally designed to weaken Tennessee’s public safety laws. By creating a new concealed handgun permit, this bill establishes a new and weaker standard for who can carry a concealed handgun in public. This new standard comes complete with less comprehensive background checks and lower training requirements. In fact, were HB 1264 to become law, Tennesseans could obtain a permit to carry a concealed handgun in public without even participating in live-fire training. The new permit also strips local law enforcement of their ability to inform the Department of Safety, which is responsible for issuing permits, about an applicant’s criminal history before a permit is issued.

The bill also lowers the age for getting a permit to 18, despite the fact that 18-20-year-olds are offenders in gun homicides at rates four times higher than adults 21 and older. Federal law prohibits licensed dealers from selling handguns to those under 21, but 18-20-year-olds are free to legally purchase handguns through unlicensed sellers who do not require a background check.

Effective permitting systems rely on background checks to ensure that people with dangerous histories are not carrying a loaded handgun in public. In fact, a yearlong investigation by Everytown for Gun Safety recently revealed that people with dangerous histories have shockingly easy access to purchasing guns online without a background check in Tennessee:

  • As part of the investigation, investigators posted online ads in Tennessee for guns that would not require a background check. Nearly one in eight of the potential buyers who responded was legally prohibited from buying or possessing a gun and would have failed a background check at a licensed gun dealer.
  • The investigation also uncovered 83,656 ads for guns for sale in Tennessee that would not legally require a background check, the third-highest number of ads in the country.

By weakening the permit system, this legislation would threaten public safety in Tennessee. 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. The few states that have eliminated their permitting requirement altogether have seen a substantial increase in firearm violence.

If you’d like to learn more about how this bill threatens public safety in Tennessee, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

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