Permits won’t be needed to carry handguns in Tennessee

Tennessee has become the latest state to soon allow most adults 21 and older to carry handguns without first clearing a background check and training after Gov. Bill Lee on Thursday signed the measure into law. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
Tennessee has become the latest state to soon allow most adults 21 and older to carry handguns without first clearing a background check and training after Gov. Bill Lee on Thursday signed the measure into law. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

Credit: Mark Humphrey

Credit: Mark Humphrey

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee has become the latest state to soon allow most adults 21 and older to carry handguns without first clearing a background check and training after Gov. Bill Lee on Thursday signed the measure into law.

“I signed constitutional carry today because it shouldn’t be hard for law-abiding Tennesseans to exercise their (Second Amendment) rights,” said Lee, a Republican approaching his reelection campaign for 2022, in a tweet.

ExploreGeorgians apply for gun background checks in record numbers

Lee initially proposed the National Rifle Association-backed legislation last year before the COVID-19 pandemic caused lawmakers to narrow their focus. He renewed that effort when lawmakers returned for this year’s legislative session, where the GOP-controlled General Assembly easily advanced the measure to his desk.

Regional coverage
At The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, we focus primarily on Georgia news, but we also like to provide readers with regional coverage of the Southeast. We cover stories that impact our region, especially in Alabama, Florida, Arkansas, Tennessee, Louisiana, South Carolina, North Carolina and Mississippi.

The measure applies to firearms that are concealed and ones that are openly carried. It takes effect July 1.

Nationwide, at least six states are also weighing similar measures this year, with supporters eager to join nearly 20 others that currently don’t require permits for concealed carry. Meanwhile, more than 30 states allow for permitless open carry.

ExploreGlock 19 disguised as Nerf gun seized in North Carolina drug raid

Supporters of the bill argued that the proposal includes harsher penalties for those who commit certain gun-related crimes, with the governor setting aside $17.7 million in his budget plan for the bill largely due to an anticipated increase in incarceration.

However, law enforcement groups — including police chiefs, sheriffs and prosecutors — have largely opposed the move and consider the state’s existing permit system an important safeguard for knowing who should or shouldn’t carry a gun.

Asked whether recent mass shootings in GeorgiaColorado, Texas and others gave him any concern about timing, Lee has previously said the increased penalties mean that “we in fact will be strengthening laws that would help prevent gun crimes in the future.”

The permitless carry law comes after Lee and Republican lawmakers relaxed the state’s handgun law in 2019 by allowing people to obtain a concealed-carry-only handgun permit that didn’t require them to demonstrate ability to fire a weapon. The new permits became available at the start of 2020.

In Other News