NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — The GOP lawmakers behind bills to expand access to guns in Tennessee heard from legislative counsel and representatives of the Department of Safety that their bills could have unintended consequences if passed.
“I’m not quite sure this is fixing a problem that exists,” said Department of Safety Director of Legislation Elizabeth Stroecker.
Stroecker was testifying about a bill that was supposed to allow adults to carry a weapon in places like school property and parks as long as the adult didn’t plan to commit a crime.
However, it was voted down by Senate Republicans after being warned that it could have a much broader impact.
“All weapons other than firearms would be allowed in courtrooms,” said TBI Policy Director Patrick Powell. “So, you could take a crossbow into a courtroom as long as you didn’t have a premeditated intent, which arguably you may not until you see what the judge rules.”
In addition, a bill intended to allow people with concealed weapons permits to carry a gun on college campuses was also met with confusion.
“This bill allows college students, university professors and staff to protect themselves. It reduced felony traps for individuals already authorized to carry handguns on education property,” explained bill sponsor Sen. Joe Hensley (R-Hohenwald).
Stroecker said the bill could “gut” carrying laws in elementary, middle and high schools and would allow guns to be brought on school buses and at school events.
“Football game, basketball game, soccer game, whatever it happens to be, if the school is using that facility, that bill if passed would apply, you can carry on that property?” asked Sen. Paul Rose (R-Lauderdale County). “Yes,” replied the lawmaker’s attorney.
On Monday in a Tennessee House Subcommittee, a bill to allow open carry of all firearms came up, while lawmakers plan to debate it more at a future meeting, one GOP member said the bill worries him.
“Can you just give me one reason why that might be necessary on let’s say Poplar Ave. in Memphis, Tennessee?” asked Rep. John Gillespie (R-Memphis) to bill sponsor Rep. Bryan Richey (R-Maryville).
“The second amendment,” Richey responded simply.
“Can you elaborate, please? I’m still a little confused,” Gillespie replied.
“If you read into to that it says, ‘the right to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed,'” Richey said.
“You’re missing half the amendment there, but…” Gillespie said.
Debate on Richey’s bill will continue during the next House Criminal Justice Subcommittee.