State lawmaker plans to push for universal background checks after new state law allows permitless carry

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — A Tennessee lawmaker says he plans to continue pushing for universal background checks despite a new state law allowing adults to carry firearms without a permit or a background checks.

“I’m opposed to permitless carry,” said Rep. Mike Stewart, House District 52. “I think we already have laws that protect the rights of law-abiding citizens who want to carry guns.”

Governor Bill Lee signed the measure into law on Thursday. It applies to adults 21 and older and military members 18 years and older. Under the law, handguns can be concealed or openly carried. Long guns are not permitted.

“I don’t know why we’d want to make it easier for people to carry guns,” Stewart explained. “There are plenty of people who are law-abiding gun owners, and they have a right under our constitution to carry guns. However, I don’t think that group is really benefitting from this legislation. We already protect the rights of law-abiding citizens.”

Rep. Stewart says the law only opens the door for more criminals to get their hands on firearms.

“Without background checks we would have more felons getting guns,” said Stewart. “But the problem is, right now, our background check system has a huge loophole which is you can buy guns on the internet, in what’s called a private transaction without going through a background check. That’s not fair to the people who sell guns at gun shops who have to do a background check on everybody that buys a gun. It’s not fair to the citizens who have the right to expect that when guns are exchanged, a background check will ensure a felon doesn’t get a gun.”

That’s why Stewart says he plans to propose universal background check legislation every year that he is in office.

“Virtually 90 percent of citizens think we should have universal background checks. So, the people pushing against this, I think they are representing a minority,” said Stewart. “Over time, I’m confident Tennessee will do the right thing when it comes to background checks.”

The law also increases certain penalties for crimes like theft of a firearm. The law goes into effect July 1.

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