Tennessee Senate advances 'permitless carry'

Friday, March 19, 2021, Vol. 45, No. 12

NASHVILLE (AP) — The Tennessee Senate on Thursday advanced legislation that would allow most adults 21 and older to carry firearms — concealed or openly — without a license that now requires a background check and training.

After sailing through the Senate on a 23-9 vote, the proposal must now pass the House, which is likely in the GOP-dominant chamber. GOP Gov. Bill Lee has backed the bill and is expected to sign it into law.

Republican senators tweaked the original bill to ban those who had been convicted of stalking or driving under the influence from being able to carry a firearm. Those who had been hospitalized or judicially committed in a mental institution would also be banned.

The bill carries an estimated $17.7 million price tag because it increases penalties on gun-related crimes and anticipates more incarcerations as a result. The bill also increases penalties for anyone who is convicted of unlawful possession of a firearm. This would include unlawful possession of a handgun by a convicted felon.

The push in Tennessee came after Republicans in the General Assembly relaxed the state's handgun law in 2020 by allowing people to obtain a concealed-carry-only handgun permit that didn't require them to demonstrate the ability to fire a weapon.

Fifteen states already allow concealed carry without a permit, and lawmakers in nine others have proposed allowing or expanding the practice. Most states require people to do things like get weapons training and undergo a background check to get a permit to carry a gun hidden by a jacket or inside a purse.