House votes to cut fine for carrying gun without a permit from $500 to $250

The state House voted 70-20 Monday evening  to reduce maximum first-offense penalties for carrying a handgun without a state-issued permit from $500 to $250. The Times Free Press reports the vote came despite criticism from Democrats and concerns from the Haslam administration as well as some law enforcement officials and others.

Rep. Bo Mitchell, D-Nashville, criticized the measure, saying police “use this as a tool to get a lot of guns off the streets that will later be used in crimes” and blasted as “pathetic” Republicans moving the bill as the nation continues to mourn the fatal shooting of 17 students and faculty at a Parkland, Fla., high school.

“In today’s society, where we are looking for society to make children safer, this bill is setting a poor example,” Mitchell charged.

But Majority Leader Glen Casada, R-Franklin, argued that the nation has a “heart problem, not a gun problem.”

Current law makes it a Class C misdemeanor to carry a handgun without a permit, which requires a criminal background check and some training. It also provides up to 30 days in jail.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Micah Van Huss, R-Gray, cuts the fine on first offense to $250 and eliminates the jail penalty, the latter which is evidently rarely used.

…Van Huss’ bill also prohibits police from seizing an unlicensed handgun carrier on first offense. But they added an amendment sponsored by Rep. Bill Dunn, R-Knoxville, that allows police to take the ammunition fron the weapon.

Note: The bill is HB2586, which was introduced as a caption bill and subsequently amended in House committees. The Senate version is sponsored by Sen. Mark Green (R-Ashland City), who has not yet scheduled a Senate committee vote.

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