On 27 February, 2020, at 1 p.m., Governor Bill Lee announced he is proposing Constitutional Carry for Tennessee in 2020.
Both Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson and House Majority Leader William Lampeth endorsed the idea of Constitutional Carry. A specific statute was not in place when the announcement was made. With all three leaders endorsing the popular idea of Constitutional Carry, a bill seemed almost certain of passage. From tn.gov:
“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.”
The United States started 2020 with 16 states which have close approximations of Constitutional Carry.
Constitutional Carry is when residents are not required to have a government permit in order to carry loaded handguns in most public places, either concealed or openly. This was the state of the law when the Second Amendment was ratified in 1791. It wasn’t until a generation later that politicians started to infringe on Second Amendment rights, primarily with bans on carrying concealed weapons, then later, after the War Between the States, with requiring permits to carry.
In the 2020 legislative session in Tennessee, several bills were submitted, with considerable differences. Then, the Covid-19 virus, or Wuhan Flu, caught the attention of the legacy media and federal, state, and local governments.
On 19 March 2020, the Tennessee legislature temporarily recessed, stopping legislative action.
Constitutional Carry, which had been endorsed by the Governor, the majority leader in the House, and the Majority leader in the Senate, is dead in the water.
The legislature hopes to resume the session on 1 June. From tenessean.com:
Although lawmakers hope to return as early as June 1, the continued uncertainty of coronavirus has led some members to wonder when it might be safe to return to Nashville to continue their business for the year.
The Tennesee legislature was scheduled to be in session from 14 January, 2020, to 1 May, 2020. It is unknown how long the legislature may be in session after resuming the session on 1 June.
The legislature passed the budget on 19 March; there is little incentive for them to take up much work. 2020 is an election year, and legislators will wish to get out and campaign. Republicans hold supermajorities in both houses, so Democrats have the incentive to limit the session as much as possible. Actions on HB2817, and SB2671 were put on hold as of 18 and 17 of March, respectively.
This shows how events can derail the best-laid plans. No one planned for a pandemic to shut down the legislature for over two months.
How high a priority passage of Constitutional Carry was to the legislature is unknown. If it had been a priority, it could have been passed rather quickly.
Tennessee Firearms Association has lobbied for the least restrictive version of Constitutional Carry, the Governor and legislative leaders version would include increased penalties for theft of firearms and possession by currently prohibited possessors.
It is possible a version of Constitutional Carry will be passed into law in 2020; if it does, it will be because of strong lobbying by Second Amendment supporters.
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.