JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – Tennessee’s permitless carry law goes into effect on Thursday. The law allows non-felons over the age of 21 to open or concealed carry a handgun without a carry permit.
Governor Bill Lee signed the permitless carry bill, also known as constitutional carry, into law on June 2.
Prior to Thursday’s change, handgun owners had to apply for a carry permit to concealed carry or an enhanced carry permit to open carry.
Tomorrow, gun owners will not have to worry about either as long as the guns are lawfully possessed and the owner is where they have a right to be.
Johnson City Police Department Training Sergeant Andy Clevinger said he expects the change to provide some confusion for residents.
“Our call volume is going to increase and it’s going to go up for a little while until those changes go into effect and people start getting more familiar with it,” Clevinger said.
Clevinger said he believes calls could be made by people seeing other individuals carrying a gun, which would now be legal.
“It’s going to change the way our officers respond to certain calls for service when it comes to someone being called in because they have a handgun on them,” Clevinger said.
Many raised questions about the change, including state lawmakers and one gun store owner.
State Rep. Vincent Dixie (D) of Nashville said it is the wrong time for this law.
“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,” Dixie said.
Kelly White of Gray City Guns & Pawn said via Facebook message that the law is a “double-edged sword” because she doesn’t see the need for a permit, but also did not want to see people uneducated about their guns.
“I think that they’re still needs to be basic education for those that do not know functionality nor proper safety and handling,” White said. “It does concern me that there will be many inexperience individuals carrying now because they can.”
Also included in the law are harsher penalties for theft of a firearm. That charge is now a Class E felony for thefts valued up to $2,500, with stricter charges as value goes up.
Clevinger said if you do choose to carry without permit, concealed carry is the safer option.
“The best and safest way is to make sure that it’s holstered and it’s secure to your body,” Clevinger said.
Tennessee joins more than 20 states that have passed permitless carry laws.