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Lee plan offers muddled benefit for pistol-packing Tennesseans

Under Tennessee’s “intent to go armed” law, hundreds of people are trapped in criminal prosecutions. The law is a tool to terrify and intimidate the people.

On February 27, Gov. Bill Lee announced that he was filing an “administration bill” to implement “constitutional carry” in Tennessee. At the time that the announcement was made, TFA was excited to hear that the Governor was going to support constitutional carry.

By John Harris / Tennessee Firearms Association

However, that excitement was tempered by the fact that he did not identify the specific bill by number, that there was no release of any amendment or language for the bill and that all we had at the time was his description of the bill.

TFA has now received what it believes to be a copy of the amendment that will be made to SB2671/HB2817. That bill, as presently written, has nothing to do with handguns. That bill is set for hearing in the House Constitutional Protections subcommittee AND in Senate Judiciary on March 3. That bill, according to the state’s website this morning, has no amendments. Yet, we now have a copy of an amendment to that bill (link is below) which deletes everything in the original bill and substitutes language that is similar to what the Governor described in his press announcement last week.

What is current law?

Current Tennessee law says that “person commits an offense who carries, with the intent to go armed, a firearm or a club.” TCA 39-17-1307(a)(1). A violation can be charged as a Class C misdemeanor or a Class A misdemeanor. See, TCA 39-17-1307(a)(2). Its a Class A misdemeanor (up to 11 months, 29 days in jail) if the possession “… occurred at a place open to the public where one (1) or more persons were present.” Thus, most illegal possession charges could be brought as Class A misdemeanors.

What does this amendment, assuming its the final amendment, to implement Governor Lee’s changes do?

First, it is a handgun only bill. It does not address longarms or those categories of guns which are only classified as firearms.

Second, the bill does not address “prohibited” locations like public parks or public buildings. Those locations, which are off limits by statute, would remain off limits for those relying on this permitless carry exception to a criminal charge.

Now, for a more detailed examination.

Section 1 of the proposed law does not alter TCA 39-17-1307(a) by “removing the Class C misdemeanor” – it is still there. What this bill does is it creates a new subpart (g) that says this:

It is an exception to the application of subsection (a) 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 under § 39-17-1351(b) and (c);
(2) The person lawfully possesses the handgun; and
(3) The person is in a place where the person has a right to be.

The amendment creates an exception to a charge of illegal carrying if certain conditions are met.

What are the conditions?

The bill contains numerous conditions that could exclude some individuals who otherwise can legally possess a handgun from being able to carry a handgun in Tennessee under this proposed permitless carry exception:

  • subsection (g)(1) by adopting 39-17-1351(b) the bill is limited to Tennessee residents only
  • subsection (g)(1) by adopting 39-17-1351(b) the bill is limited to lawful US citizens and those who are lawful permanent residents
  • subsection (g)(1) by adopting 39-17-1351(b) the bill is limited to those who are not prohibited from possessing a firearm under TCA 39-17-1307(b), 18 USC 922(g) “or any other state or federal law”
  • subsection (g)(1) by adopting 39-17-1351(b) the bill is limited to those 21 and up and a limited group of individuals who are 18 – 20 depending on whether the individual is or has had military experience
  • subsection (g)(1) by adopting 39-17-1351(c) the bill adopts all of the conditions for applying for an enhanced handgun permit including some conditions which do not disqualify a person from legally purchasing or possessing a firearm under state or federal law
  • subsection (g)(2) requires that the person lawfully possess “the handgun” which could raise the question of whether the standard applies to a specific handgun as opposed to the right to possess handguns in general
  • subsection (g)(3) requires that the person be in a place where the person has a right to be

Sections 2-5 of the bill amend existing law to allow someone who is able to transport a firearm, even under this new proposed subpart (g) to store the weapon in a personal vehicle as long as it is parked where the owner has a right to park the car. Note, however, that there is no language to amend existing TCA 50-1-312 which is the statute that allows employees to store weapons in employee parking lots which presumably would still be limited to handgun permit holders.

Sections 6-7 address the duty of handgun permit holders to display their permits on demand of law enforcement and include minor adjustments relative to the capability of individuals to engage in permitless carry under this bill.

Sections 8-12 address either new or increased penalties for individuals who steal guns or commit crimes with guns.

Legislation of this type that already has the Governor’s support and the support of many in the Legislature tells us it is likely to pass. The real question is, in reviewing the present bill language, is this what will be enacted or will it be amended prior to passage and, if so, how?

Because the Senate has no subcommittee, we should know by March 3 whether the above discussed amendment is the actual bill and also whether there are any amendments favorable to protecting the right of the citizens to carry arms. If you have comments on the bill, it is critical that you contact your House and Senate members as well as the members of the Senate Judiciary and the House Constitutional Protections subcommittee during the next 24 -30 hours and share your thoughts and wishes with them.

Calendar Report for week of March 2, 2020

There are a number of bills on the calendar for this week including the Governor’s recently announced bill which is set in the House and Senate on March 3. The PDF of the calendar report is linked below.

GOA / TFA 2nd Amendment Rally on March 10

Don’t forget the planned GOA/TFA 2nd Amendment Rally on March 10. Speakers are expected to include Erich Pratt from GOA, Dick Heller, several special guest Legislators.

The 2nd Amendment Rally at the Tennessee Legislature is set for March 10, 2020.

It will start by 9:00 am in the old Supreme Court Chambers in the state capitol (a gun free zone). [NOTE: If weather permits and attendance calls for it, this portion of the event may be moved outside to capitol grounds on the morning of the event!] During this time, there will be guest legislators and speakers to address those in attendance.

Following that meeting, the rally participants are expected to move into the Legislature’s office building (the Cordell Hull building at 425 5th Ave N, Nashville, TN 37243). During this time, we are asking that groups of Rally attendees circulate and speak with Legislators and staff about passing true constitutional carry (with an optional permit) this year in Tennessee, eliminating gun free zones, repealing the “concealed only permit”, etc.

It is critical that you call in advance of March 10 to schedule an appointment that day with your individual legislators. You can get their names and office numbers on the legislature’s website which has a “lookup” tool based on your street address.

NOTICE!!!! By decision of Bill Lee, guns are prohibited in the capitol – no exceptions! By decision of the Legislature, handgun permit holders are allowed to carry concealed only in their offices in the Cordell Hull building. Since part of the Rally will be in the capitol, permit holders who are in possession of their handguns will not be able to participate in the meeting in the capitol (you can call in advance and complain ask Bill Lee to remove that restriction on your right to carry a handgun).

GOA has set up an Eventbrite page in an effort to gauge the level of attendance in advance of the Rally. Please sign up today!

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