JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) — As the Tennessee permitless gun bill advances, it continues to receive pushback from various law enforcement agencies, but one Tennessee lawmaker says nothing will change except for harsher penalties.
The proposed legislation would allow people to carry handguns, open or concealed, without a permit. It also increases punishments for certain gun crimes.
“A theft of a firearm from a misdemeanor to a felony, which also means instead of a minimum 60 days in jail, it goes to 6 months in jail,” said state Sen. Jon Lundberg (R-Bristol). “It’s a pretty solid deterrence for those who are illegally carrying.”
However, one Northeast Tennessee criminal justice associate professor said he is a strong believer of the Second Amendment but expanding the law is not necessary.
“We have a law in this state that has been effective for the past 25 years, in assuring certain training standards are met, ensuring certain background checks are done, and stuff of that nature to assure that folks carrying a weapon should carry a weapon,” said Eric Stanton, associate professor of criminal justice at Northeast State Community College.
The Tennessee Sheriff’s Association has taken a stand against the bill. In an open letter, the group said in part:
“While we support the enhanced penalties in the legislation of HB786, we strongly believe that completely eliminating the permit requirement will negatively impact the safety of Tennesseans and our law enforcement officer.”Tennessee Sheriff’s Association
The full statement can be read here.
However, Lundberg said the law is solid in preventing the wrong people from getting a handgun.
“There’s a good list of people, frankly, who shouldn’t be carrying. We added those stalking, those who have had multiple DUIs; driving under the influence, those who have been declared mentally incompetent. Those are the folks who shouldn’t be carrying,” Lundberg said. “It is a constitutional right to keep or carry firearms, whether it’s concealed or opened.”
Stanton explained, “Everybody will be able to keep firearms who have no criminal record. You’ll be able to do that with or without a permit and anyone 21 years of ago or older will be allowed to do this. Those serving in the military between 18 and 20 will also be allowed to do this.”
Other opposition from state law enforcement agencies occurred this week during the senate judiciary committee.
“I think that maybe this is one of those things that reasonable minds can differ. The bureau has just been consistent from a philosophical, public safety standpoint,” Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Senior Policy Advisor Jimmy Musice said. “Either, if you’re purchasing from a federally licensed gun dealer or if you’re getting a permit. There are other things like dishonorable discharge if you’ve renounced your U.S. citizenship if you are illegal in this country – those are all entries that exist in these databases that are nationwide – about 23 million of those records, but you can only access them to specific reasons. Unfortunately, a patrol officer will not have the ability to verify whether someone is or is not in one of those databases. It frankly makes that piece of this a little unenforceable for your average officer.”