Gov. Lee signs permitless ‘constitutional carry’ into law

Tennessee

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Most Tennesseans will soon be able to carry a handgun in the state without a permit after the governor’s “constitutional carry” bill received his signature Thursday.

Senate Bill 0765/House Bill 0786 as signed by Gov. Bill Lee goes into effect July 1.

The bill, also called “constitutional carry” by the governor, had been introduced by Lee, who in February put his support behind several legislative initiatives.

The governor announced his signature to the bill via Twitter:

“I signed constitutional carry today because it shouldn’t be hard for law-abiding Tennesseans to exercise their #2A rights. Thank you members of the General Assembly and @NRA for helping get this done.”

Gov. Bill Lee, Twitter

The bill summary makes the following notes:

“This bill creates an exception to the offense of unlawful carrying of a firearm, if a person meets the qualifications for an enhanced handgun carry permit, lawfully possesses a handgun, and is in a place that the person has a right to be; and revises other firearm statutes, all as discussed below.

Under present law, it is an offense for a person who carries, with the intent to go armed, a firearm or a club. This bill adds an exception to the application of this offense that a person is carrying, whether openly or concealed, a handgun and:

  1. The person meets the qualifications for the issuance of an enhanced handgun carry permit;
  2. The person lawfully possesses the handgun; and
  3. The person is in a place where the person has a right to be.

Under present law, the holder of a valid enhanced handgun carry permit or concealed handgun carry permit recognized in this state may, unless expressly prohibited by federal law, transport and store a firearm or firearm ammunition in the permit holder’s motor vehicle while on or utilizing any public or private parking area if:

  • The permit holder’s motor vehicle is parked in a location where it is permitted to be; and
  • The firearm or ammunition being transported or stored in the motor vehicle: is kept from ordinary observation if the permit holder is in the motor vehicle; or is kept from ordinary observation and locked within the trunk, glove box, or interior of the person’s motor vehicle or a container securely affixed to such motor vehicle if the permit holder is not in the motor vehicle.

This bill extends the applicability of the above provisions to a person who lawfully carries a handgun pursuant to the provisions of this bill described above in (1.)-(3.).

The present law provisions governing enhanced handgun carry permits provide that the permit holder must have the permit in the holder’s immediate possession at all times when carrying a handgun and must display the permit on demand of a law enforcement officer. This bill revises this provision to instead provide that the permit holder must have the permit in the holder’s immediate possession at all times when carrying a handgun in a location or manner that would be prohibited if not for the person’s status as an enhanced handgun carry permit holder and must display the permit on demand of a law enforcement officer under such circumstances.

Similarly, the present law provisions governing concealed handgun carry permits provide that a person issued a concealed handgun carry permit must carry the permit at all times when carrying a handgun pursuant to this section and must display the permit on demand of a law enforcement officer. This bill revises this provision to instead provide that the permit holder must have the permit in the holder’s immediate possession at all times when carrying a handgun in a location or manner that would be prohibited if not for the person’s status as a concealed handgun carry permit holder and must display the permit on demand of a law enforcement officer under such circumstances.

Under present law, theft of property or services is a Class A misdemeanor if the value of the property or services obtained is $1,000 or less. This bill enhances the penalty for the theft of a firearm so that it will be a Class E felony if the property obtained is a firearm worth less than $2,500. For firearms valued at $2,500 or more, the present law penalty provisions will apply. Also, under present law, theft of a firearm is punished by confinement for not less than 30 days in addition to any other penalty authorized by law. This bill increases the maximum period of confinement from 30 to 180 days.

Present law requires a court to consider certain enhancement factors when sentencing a person. This bill adds as an enhancement factor the fact that the offense for which the person is being sentenced involved the theft of a firearm from a motor vehicle.

This bill provides that for the offenses listed below committed on or after July 1, 2021, there will be no release eligibility until the person has served 85 percent of the sentence imposed by the court, less sentence credits earned and retained. However, no sentence reduction credits may operate to reduce below 70% the percentage of sentence imposed by the court such person must serve before becoming release eligible. The offenses to which this provision applies are:

  1. Unlawful possession of a firearm by a person convicted of a felony crime of violence, an attempt to commit a felony crime of violence, or a felony involving use of a deadly weapon;
  2. Unlawful possession of a firearm by a person convicted of a felony drug offense;
  3. Unlawful possession of a handgun by a person convicted of a felony; and
  4. Unlawfully providing a handgun to a juvenile or permitting a juvenile to possess a handgun.

On March 18, the Senate adopted amendment No. 1, and passed Senate Bill 765, as amended.

AMENDMENT No. 1 revises this bill’s exception to the offense of carrying, with the intent to go armed, a firearm or a club. Under this bill, it will be an exception to such offense that a person is carrying, whether openly or concealed, a handgun, and:

  1. The person is at least 21 years of age, or is at least 18 years of age and has been honorably discharged from military service or is on active duty and has completed basic training;
  2. The person lawfully possesses the handgun; and
  3. The person is in a place where the person is lawfully present.

This amendment creates a new offense whereby it will be a Class B misdemeanor offense for a person who meets any of the following criteria to carry a firearm with the intent to go armed:

  • Has been convicted of stalking;
  • Has been convicted of DUI two or more times within the prior 10 years, or one time within the prior five years;
  • Has been adjudicated as a mental defective, judicially committed to or hospitalized in a mental institution, or had a court appoint a conservator for the person by reason of a mental defect; or
  • Is otherwise prohibited from possessing a firearm by federal law as it existed on Jan. 1, 2021.”

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