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Gov. Bill Lee announces permitless gun legislation; bill would increase penalties for gun thefts

Posted at 10:52 AM, Feb 27, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-27 23:51:27-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF)  — Governor Bill Lee has announced legislation that would remove handgun carry permits in Tennessee.

Lee made the announcement Thursday morning, saying if passed, the Constitutional Carry law would allow anyone 21 and over to carry a handgun, with or without a permit. The governor said 16 other states have a similar 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.”

Right now, someone can only carry a concealed weapon after undergoing training and receiving a state card. This would remove that requirement with the exception of restricted areas.

The legislation would increase penalties for stealing or unlawfully possessing a gun. It would also add mandatory minimum sentence for anyone who steals gun.

Rep. Lamberth added that under the new penalties, someone who steals a gun or is caught in possession of one will go to jail for a "very long time."

The bill, however, does not currently penalize juveniles who are caught with guns. Instead, those who've provided the guns would face stiffer penalties.

Opponents of the bill, such as Beth Joslin Roth of Safe Tennessee Project, said it could result in more gun deaths in the state.

"Our homicide numbers, our death numbers and our suicide numbers are among the worst in the country and what we know is stronger gun laws correlate with lower rates of gun violence," she said. "It's very frustrating to see the leadership of our state go in the opposite direction when it comes to public safety and public health."

Tennessee Democratic Chair Mary Mancini released the following statement in response to the bill:

“Support for the 2nd Amendment goes hand-in-hand with safety, accountability, and keeping guns out of the hands of dangerous people. Training and licensing helps with all three. Allowing untrained and unlicensed people to carry weapons openly is a sure way of perpetuating the situations which have already caused so much carnage and slaughter of innocent people.

Allowing concealed and open carry without a permit is opposed by law enforcement. The next time any Tennessee Republican asserts they are the party of law & order or they are the Party that supports law enforcement, ask them about this.”

Representative Jim Cooper took to social media, saying:

"I have a carry permit. I have taken the classes necessary to obtain that permit. Education is a huge part of responsible gun ownership. If you want to do it right & be a responsible gun owner then you should have no problem going through proper channels."