Freshman Republican bucks leadership on permitless carry

House members attend a floor session in Nashville on Jan. 12, 2021. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

State Rep. John Gillespie, a freshman Republican from Memphis, speaking out against a bill to eliminate background check and training requirements in order to carry handguns in public.

“Law enforcement opposes this bill, and I take their recommendation seriously,” Gillespie said in a release.

The bill passed the Senate on a 23-9 vote last week (opponents included three Republicans: Richard Briggs of Knoxville, Brian Kelsey of Memphis, and Becky Massey of Knoxville). The House version is up for a Finance Committee vote on Tuesday.

The measure was introduced on behalf of Gov. Bill Lee and has wide support among Republicans in both chambers. But for some gun rights groups, the bill doesn’t go far enough. The National Association for Gun Rights has publicized the phone numbers of Senate Speaker Randy
McNally (R-Oak Ridge) and Senate Judiciary Chair Mike Bell (R-Riceville) for opposing efforts to allow people with recent drunken driving or stalking convictions to be covered by the bill.

The state issued 145,237 handgun carry permits last year, but 3,639 applications were rejected and 2,065 were suspended or revoked.

Here’s the release from Gillespie:

State Representative John Gillespie today voiced his opposition to a gun bill regarding what is commonly referred to as “open constitutional carry”. The proposed legislation would allow any Tennessean to carry a handgun openly or concealed without a permit and without any training in firearms use.

“I am a strong supporter of our Second Amendment right to possess firearms, but I reservations about this proposed law,” Gillespie stated. “I’ve spoken with numerous constituents and law enforcement professionals about this bill and have decided to vote ‘no’ for two reasons. First, law enforcement opposes this bill, and I take their recommendation seriously. Second, there is no training component to the
legislation. I support Tennessee’s concealed carry law because it requires a course in basic handgun safety. This legislation does not require training, although the Tennessee Sheriff’s Association has offered to provide the training at no charge,” remarked Gillespie.

A graduate of High Point University, Gillespie is a native Memphian. He supports the mission of a local senior living facility by serving as Grant Coordinator. Gillespie began his career in banking and finance starting as a customer service representative at a local bank before working his way up to the mortgage division at another Memphis financial institution. He is a member of St. John’s Episcopal Church.

Representative Gillespie was elected to the District 97 seat in the House of Representatives in November. The district includes parts of Bartlett, Cordova, and East Memphis. More information about Gillespie may be found by visiting VoteJohnGillespie.com.

16 Responses to Freshman Republican bucks leadership on permitless carry

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    James White says:

    This bill is somewhat better than a sharp stick poke in the eye. Senate Bill 318 or Senate Bill 1391 are better.

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    Taxpayer #314 says:

    Why would you think that Law Enforcement is AGAINST this bill? More guns on the streets just raises the crime rate and the cops know it. The recent killings in Atlanta showed that the gunman bought the gun used in all eight murders that very morning with no background check and no waiting. How many more need to die before the public wakes up? Lee doesn’t seem to care.

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    Taxpayer #314 says:

    Last week, it was 8 dead from a nut-job in Atlanta, tonight it was 10 dead from another nut-job in Colorado. This is exactly why our police are so against putting more guns out on our streets. And still the NRA and the republicans want to allow more guns on our streets. Our (R) state legislature is voting soon on permit-less gun carry. At some point we have to call for some real gun restrictions instead of just the usual “thoughts and prayers” for all the victims of our daily gun violence. Something has to change.

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      Bob says:

      Is there any evidence that constitutional carry increases violence by the mentally ill?

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        Taxpayer #314 says:

        The mentally ill would have some issues dealing with permits and paperwork, passing a background check etc. A simple waiting period would also give the public or family a chance to intervene if a person was mentally ill. The harder it is to get your hands on a weapon, the more mentally ill people would be deterred from actually getting hold of a usable weapon. When guns are so freely available in any town, more people of every kind have them. The murderer in Atlanta last week bought his weapon the same day he committed the 8 murders, no waiting. You can NOT register to vote in Georgia and then go VOTE the same day in Georgia. There is a waiting period to vote in Georgia- but not a waiting period to get a weapon and murder 8 people. That needs to change! There are so many similarly dumb laws like that about having, buying, selling, storing, carrying and using weapons across the country – we need to overhaul our entire thinking on gun laws.

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      Donna Locke says:

      There are way more people dead in Atlanta from gunshots than from the one nutcase. Pardon me for disturbing the narrative.

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        Donna Locke says:
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        Taxpayer #314 says:

        There are multiple people shot and killed every day in most of our towns and cities, it is so common now that it takes a “mass” shooting to make the news. The mentally ill issues with guns is only a small part of the violence in our society. Even some countries with active wars going on don’t have as many killed as the US does on some days. Our scared politicians refuse to address the gun issue, so it continues. The NRA is having problems these days but they still have a very large and undue influence with the public. A large majority of the general public is in favor of restricting guns. People don’t hunt with automatic rifles!! Common sense gun laws should be enacted across the country with a solid background check and a reasonable waiting period. You can still own a gun and hunt but no civilians should be allowed to openly carry an automatic rifle with a rapid ammo feeder and a backpack full of ammo anywhere, for any reason.

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          Donna Locke says:

          Young black males are disproportionately the perpetrators and the victims of homicides. Other groups, including children, often die in the crossfire or the drive-bys. Solve that.

          I am for some sensible regulations on firearms but for nothing that would interfere with my family and me defending ourselves in such a world. We’ve had a murder victim in our family.

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            Taxpayer #314 says:

            If you reduce guns in general on the street, the number of “crossfire mistakes” will go down also. Do you “defend” your family with an AK-47? It is tragic to loose a family member or a friend to gun violence in any situation. We can certainly do better than we are currently doing with our gun laws.

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            Donna Locke says:

            How do you propose to reduce the already-available guns on the street?

            And at some point you have to address the criminality itself.

            I grew in a time and place in this country when we could leave the house doors wide open while we went on vacation. We actually did this. The doors were left open. The screen doors in front of them were closed but unlatched.

            Frankly, there is no telling what we will need in the future. This country is headed toward revolution. I spent the past 25 years of my life trying to alter this course–what I see ahead. I know now this is our definite future.

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    Jonathan Swift says:

    Why do many in our state legislature ignore law enforcement when the subject is guns, but rush to agree with law enforcement when it the subject is cannabis?

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    Taxpayer #314 says:

    The second amendment describes only a “well regulated militia” having certain rights. There is absolutely no mention about the rights of heavily armed bandits and there is no way that anyone could describe the gun toting clan of today as being “Well regulated.” Weak or nonexistent gun laws are by design and the groups that push and support no gun control at all are simply out of touch with todays reality. Our gun laws need to be updated badly. A total Ban on sales of all automatic weapons, a strict and thorough background check for every weapon sold no matter where, and a reasonable waiting period would be a great start. It is way past time for our chicken skinned politicians to get some courage and stand up for sensible restrictions on guns. Get it done! No one hunts with an automatic weapon and nobody needs 400 rounds of ammo to go hunting. The republican senators same old worn out arguments against any sensible gun laws make no sense at all. There are no “rights for armed people.” Those “rights” you refer to were addressed/assigned to a well organized group back when all our weapons had a one shot capability. That was cops with pistols, in those days – the NRA has expanded the “rights” and is primarily responsible for todays staunch support for the second amendment. The mob that tried to take over our capitol 0n Jan 6th was the closest thing to a militia and once again, there was no “well regulated” part to it. The majority of the population in the USA agrees that we should have sensible gun laws – even NRA members, but the NRA itself just can’t & won’t support that.

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