NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — The bill to allow 18-year-olds to open carry handguns without a permit passed a big potential roadblock in the Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday, which has killed a lot of bills this year.
“It’s for self-defense. That’s not a right we’re given. It’s a right we have,” Sen. John Stevens (R-Huntingdon) said. “We’re given it by God alone.”
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Sen. London Lamar (D-Memphis) pushed back on the bill, citing the maturity levels of 18-year-olds.
“Eighteen-year-olds like myself were still in high school or are – I was 18 half my high school year, I turned 18 in December,” she said. “I just don’t think any high-schooler is responsible enough to have a deadly weapon.”
Many Republicans have talked about rising juvenile crime rates this year. In turn, Lamar questioned if it was wise to open up gun access to younger people.
“Every day we see bodies dropping because juveniles are having more access to guns,” Lamar said. “There are people taking guns. Guns are ravaging our community.”
Still, Republicans pushed the bill through the Senate Judiciary.
“At the minimum, we reverse the presumption that the right to bear arms is something granted to us by government,” Stevens said. “It’s not. It’s something we’re born with, as Americans.”
It now heads to the Finance Committee in the Senate, which is generally the last step before it hits each floor.
Ultimately, the bill may not matter.
At the same time as it moves forward, Tennessee Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti negotiated a deal with a far-right gun rights group in California after the group pressed a lawsuit against the state.
The lawsuit’s basis is that 18-year-olds should be able to carry.
Skrmetti’s deal opened the door as the Department of Safety said in the Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday both sides signed off, and THP has already begun implementation. All that’s left is for the judge to clean up minor details before it goes into effect.
Lt. Gov. Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge) has previously said he was opposed to the concept, but with the court case, he might not have a choice.
“I told him at that time I didn’t like it,” McNally said. “But I guess I’d have to hold my nose and go along with it.”
As far as the bill, it originally also had wording that would open up the state to allow open carry of long guns and assault rifles in Tennessee, including for 18-year-olds. That language was taken out in the draft that moved forward.