NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — A bill that would significantly expand access to guns in Tennessee is one step closer to becoming law.

This week House Bill 1005 by Rep. Rusty Grills (R—Newbern) would allow Tennesseans with an enhanced or a concealed carry permit to carry long guns, including AR-15 rifles or shotguns. Currently, state law prohibits people with those permits from carrying anything more than handguns. The proposed bill would replace all instances of “handguns” in the code to “firearms.”

The bill would also recognize the carry permits, including “handgun permit, firearms permit, weapons permit, or license” from another state as valid “as if it is a firearm carry permit issued in this state.”

During a House committee meeting Wednesday, the bill was further amended to also lower the permissive age from 21 to 18.

Tennessee Code currently limits handgun carry permits to those 21 and older.

While explicitly outlining the prohibition for minors to carry, there is an exception for juveniles at firearm safety courses, in specific shooting clubs, hunting with a valid license, protecting livestock, under the instruction of a parent or guardian or while using “justified” use of deadly force at their home.

During the Civil Justice Committee, the bill was approved on a party-line vote, with Davidson County Democrats Bill Beck and David Jernigan recorded as “no” votes.

The bill is now set for the House Finance, Ways, and Means Subcommittee schedule for next Wednesday, March 22, and the Senate Judiciary Committee for next Tuesday, March 21.

Multiple law enforcement agencies have spoken out against measures to expand gun rights in the state, citing upticks in gun-related crimes in the years since the state enacted its own constitutional carry bill.

Chris Rausch, Director of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, spoke out against the measure earlier in March, saying Tennessee leads the nation in firearm thefts.

“There’s not a real need to expand this,” he said to lawmakers at that time.

Rausch also used Texas and Ohio as examples of expanded gun rights leading to more gun-related crimes in opposing the legislation from a law enforcement perspective.

On Wednesday, however, Rep. William Lamberth (R—Portland) pushed back, saying the legislature had worked hard to “continue to expand civil liberties and freedoms at every opportunity.”

“We have to continue to do that,” he said in supporting the bill as amended.

Rep. Bill Beck (D—Nashville) countered, saying the legislation would likely cost the state “millions and millions of dollars” in tourism funding, which he said was funding the education of the state’s children “from Harriman to Hardeman County.”

Additionally, Beck reiterated the TBI’s point of gun thefts from cars

Hundreds of bills will be up for debate during the 113th General Assembly. Tennessee lawmakers shared their thoughts on some of the major issues up for discussion at this year’s legislative session.

What lawmakers had to say about: Abortion Ban Clarification | Marijuana Reform | Transgender Therapy and LGBTQ+ Rights | Dept. of Children’s Services | Education | Crime/Public Safety | More

You can also find daily coverage from the session here.