NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Starting Thursday, people 21 and older are no longer required to obtain a permit to carry a handgun.
The change in the law pushed by Governor Bill Lee was met with some pushback including by Tennessee Law Enforcement agencies.
The law paves the way for most adults to choose if they want to open carry or conceal carry a handgun, but gun rights advocates and opponents of the law are cautioning residents.
“I think it’s stupid,” said Jonathan Lee, a Tennessee native. “I think you’re going to have a lot more crime and a lot more trouble getting cops out when you really need them.”
Charles Scott, a former victim of a shooting, says gun violence will increase and could impact law enforcement.
“It needs to be something done about gun violence, because like I said, policemen have been victims,” said Scott.
“This is going to be a game changer,” Humphreys County Sheriff Chris David said. “I’m huge second amendment, I really support second amendment, we have a firing range, we keep that — I train, I’m a firearms instructor myself, but the educational part that our handgun carry permit classes offer, I think is just tremendous to a person.”
David echoing what many in Tennessee’s law enforcement community and the Tennessee Sheriff’s Association are feeling.
The Tennessee Sheriffs’ Association released this statement:
“Sheriffs and deputies take an oath of office to support the constitutions of Tennessee and the United States, along with an oath for the office of sheriff. We have and will continue to support the 2nd Amendment. We are united with the Tennessee Association of Chiefs of Police (TACP) and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) on the bills. TSA believes there is a way to allow citizens to carry under the 2nd Amendment and have a database to verify those that cannot lawfully carry. There are exemptions, by state law, to the 2nd Amendment for those with a certain criminal history, a mental disability, domestic violence conviction, etc.. We need access to any data to identify those unlawfully carrying to allow law enforcement to continue to remove those firearms. Since 1996 law enforcement has seized thousands of firearms from those unlawfully carrying, by doing so this has prevented those weapons from being used in a future violent crime.”
John Harris, the Executive Director of the Tennessee Firearms Association, says he does not foresee crime spiking.
“I don’t see that adopting a permitless system as Tennessee has done today is going to result in a material or even a related increase in criminal or negligent injuries,” Harris said.
While the new law is a step forward, it does not meet true constitutional carry standards, TFA says it’s still best at this time to get an enhanced carry permit.
“There are a number of instances where someone who may be thinking that they are legally carrying without a permit could be charged with carrying a gun illegally in Tennessee, because for example, this law does not allow carrying of a firearm in a public park or on a greenway whereas you could do that if you had the permit.”
Military members 18 and older will be allowed to open or conceal carry a handgun.
Gov. Lee defended the law as part of his public safety agenda, adding increased criminal penalties to those who commit a range of gun crimes.
“One of important pieces of legislation is we strengthen penalties for those who use guns in criminal activities. We’ve made penalties harsher for those who use guns to commit a crime. We need to continue to support law enforcement,” Gov. Lee said, in response to how he could ensure violent gun crimes won’t rise.
TSA supports the enhanced penalties of the permitless carry legislation.