U.S.A. –-(Ammoland.com)- On 27 February, 2020, at 1 p.m., Governor Bill Lee announced he is proposing Constitutional Carry for Tennessee in 2020. Tennessee has been a prime candidate to join the growing number of states with Constitutional Carry.
Currently 16 states have Constitutional Carry of varying degrees. Constitutional Carry is an approximation of the state of law and the Second Amendment at the time of the ratification of the Bill of Rights in 1791. At that time there were no laws restricting the carry of weapons, openly or concealed.
Concealed weapons were common in the early republic, from knives and sword canes to Queen Anne's or “Muff” pistols. From tn.gov:
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Today, Gov. Bill Lee announced that he is proposing legislation to advance the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding Tennesseans by implementing a Constitutional Carry 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.”
The governor’s legislation would extend the constitutional right to carry a handgun to all law-abiding citizens with or without a permit who are 21 and older, except in current restricted areas.
The legislation also includes several increased penalties for firearm-related crime to promote public safety including:
Increasing the penalty for theft of a firearm to a felony;
Providing a sentencing enhancement for theft of a firearm in a car;
Increasing the minimum sentence for theft of a firearm from 30 days to 180 days; Increasing the sentences for unlawful possession of a firearm by violent felons and felony drug offenders, possession of a handgun by a felon, and unlawfully providing a handgun to a juvenile or allowing a juvenile to possess a handgun.
“A big part of protecting the Second Amendment for law-abiding citizens is cracking down on criminals who use guns. We will make sure those who commit crimes with firearms serve their full sentences and nothing less. Many states across the nation are moving towards permitless carry and I support the governor in this initiative,” said Lt. Governor Randy McNally.
“This legislation ensures that law-abiding citizens have a constitutional right to carry their handgun, but if you are a violent criminal, felon or drug dealer, there will be no tolerance for unlawful gun possession here in Tennessee,” said Speaker Cameron Sexton.
“I applaud Governor Lee’s commitment to Tennesseans’ Second Amendment rights guaranteed by our U.S. and state constitutions. This proposal will reduce barriers to ensure citizens have the ability to protect themselves and their families, while imposing stiffer penalties against criminals who possess guns illegally,” said Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson.
“This constitutional carry package is historic because not only does it uphold the freedoms granted to us by our nation’s founding fathers, it also imposes mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines on bad guys who illegally obtain or use handguns,” said House Majority Leader William Lamberth. “I want to thank the National Rifle Association for their work over the years in making today a reality, and I look forward to working with Governor Lee, as well as my House and Senate colleagues to get Constitutional Carry passed in Tennessee.”
In 2019, in an Ammoland article, John Harris of The Tennessee Firearms Association was skeptical of the prospects for Constitutional Carry under a Governor Lee administration.
The potential for passage looks very good with Governor Lee and both the Senate Majority leader and the House Majority leader on board. The bill number and text have not been posted. As with all legislation, details are very important.
As of 2020, Ballotpedia reports there are 28 Republicans and 5 Democrats in the Tennessee Senate. There are 73 Republicans and 26 Democrats in the House, for super-majorities of Republicans in the entire legislature. The Tennessee legislature remains in session from 14 January, to 1 May in 2020. The bill should be introduced and acted on relatively quickly, if it is to pass in 2020.
If Tennessee becomes the first state to move into the Constitutional Carry camp in 2020, it will be the 17th state with Constitutional Carry. Over one third of all 50 states will then have a form of Constitutional carry, where no government permit is required for the open or concealed carry of a loaded handgun in most public places.
About Dean Weingarten:
Dean Weingarten has been a peace officer, a military officer, was on the University of Wisconsin Pistol Team for four years, and was first certified to teach firearms safety in 1973. He taught the Arizona concealed carry course for fifteen years until the goal of Constitutional Carry was attained. He has degrees in meteorology and mining engineering, and retired from the Department of Defense after a 30 year career in Army Research, Development, Testing, and Evaluation.