Tuesday, March 09, 2021

Tennessee on the Move Toward Constitutional Carry (HB0786/SB0765)

Tennessee Capitol, Image from wikipedia, cropped and scaled by Dean Weingarten

The Tennessee legislature has introduced two bills, one in the House, the other in the Senate, that seem to have a good chance of passage. The bills change current law enough to qualify as a reasonable version of Constitutional Carry. 

Majority Leaders in both the House and the Senate are in favor of the bill.

Governor Lee is in favor of the bills. From tennessean.com:

A controversial bill to allow Tennesseans to carry guns without permits is advancing in both chambers of the legislature, even as law enforcement leaders continue to speak out against the measure.

The permitless carry bill, part of Gov. Bill Lee's legislative package and dubbed "constitutional carry" by Republicans promoting the effort, was filed in one form or another in recent years but has yet to pass the General Assembly.

The legislation would allow for both open and concealed carrying of handguns for people 21 and older without a permit, as well as for military members age 18 to 20.

Bill summary:

This bill creates an exception to the offense of unlawful carrying of a firearm, if a person meets the qualifications for an enhanced handgun carry permit, lawfully possesses a handgun, and is in a place that the person has a right to be; and revises other firearm statutes, all as discussed below.

Under present law, it is an offense for a person who carries, with the intent to go armed, a firearm or a club. This bill adds an exception to the application of this offense that a person is carrying, whether openly or concealed, a handgun and:

(1) The person meets the qualifications for the issuance of an enhanced handgun carry permit;

(2) The person lawfully possesses the handgun; and

(3) The person is in a place where the person has a right to be.

Where are the specific locations and manners which are unique to enhanced permit holder? Ftom wapp.captol.tn.gov:

(8) An enhanced handgun carry permit holder who is within or on a public park, natural area, historic park, nature trail, campground, forest, greenway, waterway, or other similar public place is generally exempt from the present law prohibition against carrying weapons on any property owned, operated, or while in use by any board of education, school, college or university board of trustees, regents or directors for the administration of any public or private educational institution. Such exemption will not apply to concealed handgun carry permit holders; and

(9) A local government may not prohibit an enhanced handgun carry permit holder from possessing a handgun on public property unless the local government provides a security system consisting of metal detectors and inspection by trained personnel for such property. A local government will not be required to provide metal detectors and security inspections in order to prohibit concealed handgun carry permit holders from possessing firearms on public property.


HB0786 has passed the House sub-committee with a vote of 7-2. House Majority leader, William Lamberth is a sponsor of the bill. Senate Majority leader  Jack Johnson is a sponsor of SB0765, the Senate version of the bill. 

Govenor Bill Lee supported the Constitutional Carry bill by proposing it to the legislature on February 27th.  

“The Second Amendment is clear and concise and secures the freedoms of law-abiding citizens to keep and bear arms,” said Gov. Bill Lee. “I am pleased to announce Constitutional Carry legislation today that will protect the Second Amendment rights of Tennesseans, while also stiffening penalties on criminals who steal or illegally possess firearms. I appreciate Lt. Governor McNally and Speaker Sexton for helping to lead the way on this important issue.”

Governor Lee re-confirmed his commitment to passing Constittuional Carry in his State of the State address on 21 February, 2021:

Now, more than ever, Tennesseans want a strong commitment to the Second Amendment and the right to protect themselves.

And as such, I will be reintroducing Constitutional Carry legislation this year.

With Governor Lee, and both the House and Senate Majority leaders in support of Constitutional Carry, Tennessee is in the running to be a state which joins the growing number of those which have restored Constitutional carry. 

A very similar bill should have passed in 2020. It died when the legislature recessed on 19 March, due to the Covid 19 scare. 

The Tennessee House has 99 seats. 73 of them are held by Republicans, 26 are held by Democrats.  The Tennessee Senate has 33 seats. 27 are held by Republicans, 6 by Democrats.

Constitutional Carry is a close approximation of what Second Amendment carry rights were when the Second Amendment was ratified in 2021. In 1791, no permit was required to carry weapons, both openly or concealed.

Both Utah and Montana have restored Constitutional Carry in early 2021.  There are 18 states which operate under Constitutional Carry. Indiana and Iowa have serious efforts ongoing to restore Constitutional Carry in 2021. Efforts in other states are in various degrees of deliberation.

About 46.8% of the area of the United States has now been restored to Constitutional Carry.

All bills are subject to debate and amendments. The exact provisions any restoration of Constitutional Carry in Tennessee will be known when the bill is signed into law. 

©2021 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice and link are included.

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