Lee to lead efforts to remove handgun carry permit requirement

Gov. Bill Lee delivers his second State of the State address in Nashville on Feb. 3, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)Gov. Bill Lee announced Thursday he will lead efforts to get rid of Tennessee’s requirement to obtain a state-issued permit in order to carry handguns in public.

Here’s the release from the governor’s office:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Today, Gov. Bill Lee announced that he is proposing legislation to advance the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding Tennesseans by implementing a Constitutional Carry law.  

“The Second Amendment is clear and concise and secures the freedoms of law-abiding citizens to keep and bear arms,” said Gov. Bill 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. I appreciate Lt. Governor McNally and Speaker Sexton for helping to lead the way on this important issue.”

The governor’s legislation 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 current restricted areas.

The legislation also includes several increased penalties for firearm-related crime to promote public safety including:

  • Increasing the penalty for theft of a firearm to a felony;
  • Providing a sentencing enhancement for theft of a firearm in a car;
  • Increasing the minimum sentence for theft of a firearm from 30 days to 180 days;
  • Increasing the sentences for unlawful possession of a firearm by violent felons and felony drug offenders, possession of a handgun by a felon, and unlawfully providing a handgun to a juvenile or allowing a juvenile to possess a handgun.

“A big part of protecting the Second Amendment for law-abiding citizens is cracking down on criminals who use guns. We will make sure those who commit crimes with firearms serve their full sentences and nothing less. Many states across the nation are moving towards permitless carry and I support the governor in this initiative,” said Lt. Governor Randy McNally.

“This legislation ensures that law-abiding citizens have a constitutional right to carry their handgun, but if you are a violent criminal, felon or drug dealer, there will be no tolerance for unlawful gun possession here in Tennessee,” said Speaker Cameron Sexton.

The state chapter of Moms Demand Action for Guns Sense denounced the proposal:

“It’s common sense that if you’re going to carry a concealed gun in public, you should pass a background check and make sure you know how to handle it,,” said Leeann Hewlett, volunteer leader with the group said in a release. “Governor Lee should listen to gun safety instructors, who know far more than most about being responsible gun owners. They have said loud and clear that cutting our permitting system is the wrong choice for Tennessee.”

“Governor Lee’s announcement today proves that he’s wildly out of touch with the vast majority of Tennesseans,” said Seo Yoon Yang of  Chattanooga Students Demand Action. “Tennessee’s permitting system helps keep Tennessee families safe — but the governor would rather pander to gun extremists and dismantle a cornerstone of responsible gun ownership in Tennessee.” 

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