NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — In just one week, those 21 and older will be able to carry a handgun without a permit in Tennessee.
This comes as violence surges across the country, and some are warning the new permitless carry law could cause increased gun violence in the Volunteer State.
According to the FBI, Tennessee ranks as one of the most violent states, and now there’s fear violence could spike again when the law becomes official on July 1.
“We’ve seen the rise in violence going on, it’s only going to get worse, because right now we’re going to have untrained people carrying guns that they do not know how to use,” Nashville Representative Vincent Dixie said.
According to gunviolencearchive.org, from 2014 to now, there have been 3,700-gun related deaths ranging from murder to unintentional shootings, including just over 240 deaths and 760 injuries among children 17 and younger.
This year alone, there have been 321-gun deaths with over 500 injuries.
“We know how devastating this can be to our communities, and we pleaded with the governor, we plead our case and even gun right activist was thinking this is not a good bill,” Rep. Dixie said.
However, the Tennessee Firearm Association, which is pushing for a true ‘constitutional carry law’ in Tennessee, disagreed.
The Executive Director of the Tennessee Firearms Association released a statement saying:
“Tennessee Firearms Association does not believe that the Governor’s new permitless carry law, which is only a qualified exception to a criminal charge of carrying a firearm with the intent to go armed, will cause any material increase in the illegal use of weapons to commit violent crimes in Tennessee. Claims that allowing citizens to carry firearms have been a common prophecy from gun control advocates since at least 1994 when that type of law was first enacted in Tennessee. However, the claim has never materialized nor has it been verified with actual statistical data showing a true correlation.John Harris, Executive Director of the Tennessee Firearms Association
“In addition, Tennessee is not the first state to adopt a permitless carry system. Many other states have adopted stronger permitless carry laws. Crime data from states that have enacted permitless carry laws in the past do not support the assertion that allowing citizens to carry firearms without permits results in increased criminal violence. To the contrary, some studies show that violent crime decreases as the number of citizens lawfully carrying firearms increases. That is consistent with national crime data that shows that significant levels of violent crime occurring in those major metropolitan areas that have the strictest laws infringing civilian access to firearms, such as Chicago and New York.
“Tennessee Firearms Association believes that when citizens are armed they are better able to defend themselves, their families and their properties from criminals and the crime data supports that conclusion.”
But law enforcement, including the Tennessee Sheriffs Association, said the law hurts Tennessee.
Shelby County Sheriff Floyd Bonner’s office released a statement:
“The Tennessee Sheriff’s Association and Sheriff Bonner do not support the current plan for permitless carry and believe there are not enough precautions in the proposed law. There is a process to obtain a license to drive an automobile, which ensures your ability to operate the vehicle and the testing of your knowledge about traffic laws. There should be similar common-sense requirements before a 21-year-old can start carrying a firearm in public.
“The choice to carry a handgun is a major decision in your life, and it can affect the people around you if you mishandle your gun. Sheriff Floyd Bonner, Jr. wants the people who chose to carry a gun to understand the fundamentals of proper gun safety and to learn the state laws concerning the use of deadly force.”
A recent Vanderbilt University survey showed 59 percent of Tennesseans disapprove of the Tennessee law allowing people 21 and older to carry a handgun without a permit, while 39 percent of Tennesseans supported the new law.
“We need to worry about terrorists, gangs coming in buying guns, and then being able to use them to hurt our constituents,” Rep. Dixie said.
Military members 18 and older will be allowed to carry and conceal carry a handgun.
Governor Bill Lee’s office is also responding to concerns that the law will increase gun violence. In a statement to News 2, a spokesperson for the governor said:
“The legislation was a key priority in the Governor’s public safety package this year, which stiffened penalties for illegal gun crime and allocated additional resources for gun safety training. The Constitutional Carry law will protect law-abiding Tennesseans’ Second Amendment rights, while significantly increasing penalties for those who steal or unlawfully possess a firearm, including a mandatory minimum sentence for theft of a firearm.”