Guns Tennessee

Rep. William Lamberth, R-Portland, speaks Monday, March 29, 2021, on behalf of his bill allowing most adults to carry handguns without obtaining a permit in Tennessee.

(The Center Square) – A measure allowing for the carrying of a handgun without a permit in Tennessee now awaits Gov. Bill Lee’s approval.

Senate Bill 765 would let a gun owner carry an open or concealed handgun without a permit if a gun owner met the qualifications for an enhanced handgun carry permit, lawfully possessed the handgun and was in a place the gun owners had a right to be.

Gun owners would not be required to receive gun safety training to carry.

The bill was approved Monday night by the House, 64-29, after it passed the Senate earlier this month.

“If you are eligible to get a permit today, you will no longer need one to avoid that jail sentence for carrying your firearm,” said House Majority Leader William Lamberth, R-Portland, who sponsored the bill in the House.

The Tennessee General Assembly Fiscal Review Committee estimated the bill would result in a loss of about $2.6 million a year in handgun permit revenue for the state.

Rep. Bill Beck, D-Nashville, said it’s clear the state doesn’t support permitless carry, with 85% supporting the permitting process, along with police organizations.

“All of law enforcement thinks this will make their officers less safe,” Beck said.

Rep. Chris Todd, R-Jackson, disagreed. Todd said lawful gun owners still will get permits so they can take advantage of the reciprocity in other states that comes along with a permit.

“It is our duty to take these infringements off,” Todd said.

Lambert, when asked by Rep. Larry Miller, D-Memphis, said the estimated $12 million increase in state expenditures related to the bill would be because “we are going to lock a lot of bad guys up” for stealing guns.

The bill makes it a Class B misdemeanor for a person to carry a handgun who has been convicted of stalking, aggravated stalking or especially aggravated stalking.

The amendment also makes it a Class B misdemeanor to carry if a person was convicted of two or more DUIs within the past 10 years or one within the past five years.

“Where’s the balance in all of this?” asked Miller, who withdrew many of his amendments to the bill.

“Don’t want to go to jail? Don’t steal guns, don’t be a felon in possession of a gun, don’t deal drugs with a gun,” Lambert said. “It’s real easy to stay out of jail. Just make wiser decisions.”