Will Tennessee Pass Constitutional Carry?

Jose Nino Comments

On Thursday, February 27, 2020, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee put forward constitutional carry legislation that would allow law-abiding residents of at least 21 years of age to carry a firearm without a permit. 

The legislation in question covers both open and concealed carry. Tennessee’s present law mandates a permit for both types. Tennessee is currently ranked in 13th place according to Guns & Ammo magazine’s ranking of the best states for gun owners. Passing constitutional carry will assuredly go a long way in strengthening the state’s already pro-gun image.

“The Second Amendment is clear and concise and secures the freedoms of law-abiding citizens to keep and bear arms,” Lee said during his announcement. “I am pleased to announce constitutional carry legislation today that will protect the Second Amendment rights of Tennesseans, while also stiffening penalties on criminals who steal or illegally possess firearms. I appreciate Lt. Governor [Randy] McNally and Speaker [Cameron] Sexton for helping to lead the way on this important issue.”

Lee also unveiled stricter penalties for people who break gun laws, which includes increasing the punishment for stealing a firearm to a felony and increasing the mandatory minimum sentence for stealing a firearm from 30 days to 189 days.

“A big part of protecting the Second Amendment for law-abiding citizens is cracking down on criminals who use guns,” said Lieutenant Governor Randy McNally. “We will make sure those who commit crimes with firearms serve their full sentences and nothing less. Many states across the nation are moving towards permitless carry, and I support the governor in this initiative.”

Republicans currently hold a 73-26 majority in the House and a 28-5 majority in the Senate. On paper, this bill’s passage seems like it would be a walk in the park on account of the Republicans’ pro-gun image and their firm control of the Tennessee General Assembly.

However, history has shown that partisan labels are not always strong indicators of support for meaningful reforms on Second Amendment issues. Hence, the need to put relentless pressure on politicians and educate constituents about the merits of pro-freedom legislation like constitutional carry. 

Constitutional carry simply reaffirms the right to carry, which politicians were supposed to protect as part of their constitutional oath. Once the ability to carry became subject to the permitting process, it ceased to be a right. This is why countless activists have promoted constitutional carry as a means of rectifying the political class’s inability to protect this right. Such policies are already in place in 16 states and have not caused a surge in crime like many constitutional carry detractors have claimed in the past.

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