NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — A permitless carry bill cleared a major hurdle, as the Tennessee State Senate passed one of Governor Bill Lee’s top priorities.

The measure allows Tennesseans ages 21 and older to either openly carry or conceal a handgun without a permit. It also increases punishments for certain gun crimes.

Those that are 18 or older and honorably discharged or retired from the Armed Forces, as well as active duty or members of the National Guard would also be allowed to carry guns without permits.

Republicans are moving forward opening access to who can lawfully be able to carry a gun in Tennessee.

“In a number of states that have open carry, they haven’t seen an increase in neither violence or an increase in gun violence,” Lt. Governor Randy Mcnally said.

Tennessee ranks among the most violent states according to the latest FBI data.

“People who couldn’t pass a background check because of a felony record, people who couldn’t pass a basic gun safety training class this bill will effectively allow them to carry a concealed weapon or open weapon,” Sen. Jeff Yarbro, a Davidson County Democrat said.

Law enforcement agencies including the TBI have come out opposed to the legislation but Republicans say opposition from them won’t stop the bill from proceeding.

“When we passed the bill that the gentleman from Carroll County carried that allowed persons to take an online class only again, we had opposition from law enforcement, and now we have permitless carry — so it doesn’t surprise me that law enforcement opposes this they’ve opposed every major step we’ve made in this direction almost since the creation of the permit system,” Republican Senator Mike Bell said.

In the near party line vote with just three Republicans Senators; Richard Briggs, Becky Duncan Massey and Brian Kelsey; joining the small caucus of Democrats in opposing the bill.

Democrats say the warnings are clear.

“We allowed guns in cars, law enforcement was against it, yes they were, I was in the House then and they said this is going to lead to an increase in people breaking into cars and stealing guns, that’s what happened,” Memphis Senator Raumesh Akbari said.

The bill passed the Senate 23-9 and heads to the House.

Governor Bill Lee’s office released a statement in response to the bill securing passage in the Senate.

“This Constitutional Carry legislation is a key priority in the Governor’s public safety agenda, and we are pleased with the progress in the legislature. Governor Lee believes we need a robust commitment to the 2nd Amendment.”