By: DJ Parten
Gun rights activists advocating for Constitutional Carry are most often met with resistance and hostility from the political class.
That’s why it was such a surprise when Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee announced that he would work with lawmakers in Nashville to introduce Constitutional Carry legislation on February 27th.
“The Second Amendment is clear and concise and secures the freedoms of law-abiding citizens to keep and bear arms,” said Lee. “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.”
Sounds exciting, right?
Unfortunately, the days and weeks following that announcement left much to be desired.
House Bill 2817 and Senate Bill 2671 fall well short of the national standards for Constitutional Carry.
True Constitutional Carry means that if people can legally possess a firearm, they can carry it openly or concealed without a government permit.
Unfortunately, the governor’s legislation ties the right to carry with the ability to get an Enhanced Handgun Carry Permit (EHCP), instead of with the right to possess.
That means if this bill passes as-is, many Tennesseans who can legally possess a gun will still be barred from carrying it under Tennessee law, meaning this bill is not Constitutional Carry.
Additionally, under Lee’s bill, nonresident visitors to Tennessee would still be required to have a permit to carry. Visitors should not have fewer rights than residents of Tennessee.
According to National Association for Gun Rights Attorney Bradley Pierce, “By the way it applies and extends extra permit eligibility requirements to persons without a permit, SB 2671 fails to meet criteria which we believe are fundamental to Constitutional Carry legislation.”
In an email to the Tennessee Firearms Association, John Harris asks members of the group, “Is Tennessee really going to join the other states that have adopted “constitutional carry” if this bill passes as it is presently written? No. Clearly NO!”
Tennessee Carry’s Tim Carroll writes on their website, “We’d strongly urge you to contact your representatives in the TN house and senate and tell them to fix this bill.”
The National Association for Gun Rights, Tennessee Firearms Association, Tennessee Carry, and grassroots gun owners have all called on Gov. Lee and lawmakers to fix this bill and must continue to do so if they want Tennessee to become the 16th Constitutional Carry state.
Governor Lee needs to understand that empty promises mean nothing to gun owners in Tennessee.
There is still plenty of time for Gov. Lee and lawmakers in Nashville to keep their promise to restore the rights of Tennessee gun owners by fixing this bill and passing true Constitutional Carry.
House Bill 2817 now sits in the House Finance, Ways, and Means Committee, while Senate Bill 2671 awaits a hearing in the Senate Finance, Ways, and Means Committee.
D.J. Parten is the Executive Director of Florida Gun Rights and the Southeast Regional Director for the National Association for Gun Rights.