NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Tennessee Governor Bill Lee announced legislation Thursday that would allow those 21 and older to carry a handgun without a permit.
If passed, Tennessee would join 16 other states with what Lee called “a constitutional carry law.”
“This law would extend the constitutional right to carry a handgun to all law-abiding citizens with or without a permit who are 21 and older except in restricted areas,” Governor Lee said.
RELATED: Gov. Bill Lee introduces legislation to allow people 21+ to carry handguns without a permit
The bill also increases penalties for gun theft and classifies it as a felony. It would change minimum sentencing for gun theft to 180 days in jail, from 30. It would also increase jail time for those illegally possessing a firearm, such as a felony drug offender or a felon convicted of a violent crime.
Lt. Governor Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge) supports the bill. He praised the increased penalties in a statement “we will make sure those who commit crimes with firearms serve their full sentences and nothing less.”
John Whitehead, a manager at Harvey’s Pistol & Pawn, was thrilled to hear about the proposal. “Inalienable rights are inalienable, which means we’re born with them,” he said. He feels requirements, such as the handgun permit for concealed carry, are a headache for responsible gun owners.
Striking the required permit would also strike a requirement for certain firearm safety training.
Whitehead described the training as not teaching very much. He also sees it as more of a barrier for his customers. “For me, permits and even a lot of the other things that we do, they’re ineffective. All they do is hinder what is a right, what is sensible. They turn a right into a privilege,” he said. While he expects an uptick in business, he also believes the measure will make gun owners feel freer, and in turn, be more likely to defend themselves against violent crime.
Jodi Scheer, Co-Lead for the East Tennessee chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, sees the current permit system as a safety measure, due to the required training and screening that go along with it.
She doesn’t believe the proposal is supported by a majority of Tennesseans.
“What it shows is Governor Lee, and the supporters of this type of legislation…they’re beholden to the extreme gun lobby and not to the safety of Tennesseans, the people that elect them and that they represent,” she said.
Scheer believes this counters the ideals of responsible gun ownership. “Allowing people to have guns, openly, with no required training with no permitting required puts us all in danger,” she said.
State Representative Gloria Johnson (D-Knoxville) sent a statement that read, “Governor Lee’s call today for permitless carry is a reckless idea for all Tennesseans. Regardless of where you live in Tennessee, this legislation will not make your family safer.”
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