Does the Supreme Court’s Bruen Decision Apply to Tennessee?

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On February 28, 2023, Rep. John Ragan presented House Bill 1385 to the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee. IMG Jim Grant
On February 28, 2023, Rep. John Ragan presented House Bill 1385 to the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee. The objective of the bill was set forth in a single 4 line paragraph – it was to establish a statutory definition of the ambiguous phrase found in Tennessee Code Annotated § 39-17-1307(a)(1) (and other places) – “with intent to go armed”. The proposed amendment would define the term as meaning “carrying or wearing a weapon with premeditation and forethought to commit an infamous crime and does not include inadvertent or unintentional intrusion into an area where such weapon is not permitted.”

Elizabeth Stroecker, a taxpayer-paid attorney in the Tennessee Department of Safety, testified in opposition to the bill. Ms. Stroecker opposed the bill on the grounds that the amendment would eliminate the ability of law enforcement to stop or charge people for carrying a firearm unless the officer could show reasonable grounds to believe that the person was carrying with the intent to commit a crime.

Patrick Powell spoke for the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. He objected because the amendment would make it hard for law enforcement to stop someone who might be carrying a firearm unless the officer could prove that the person was going to commit a crime.

A representative also spoke on behalf of the Tennessee Sheriffs Association and the Tennessee Association of Chiefs of Police. He stated on behalf of his clients that they also opposed the bill because the amendment would require the law enforcement officers to be able to show that the individual had the intent to commit a crime rather than merely being in possession of a firearm before they could be stopped.

Chairman Bud Hulsey spoke in favor of the bill. He felt that there was a constitutional right to carry a firearm and that the offense should only exist if there were an intent to commit a crime.

The testimony of these individuals, two of whom are paid by taxpayers to represent Bill Lee’s administration, shows clearly that they and his administration are opposing a change in the law that would lead to the result that a) it is not a crime for a person to carry a firearm in public with the intent to go armed but b) it is a crime for someone to use a firearm to commit a violent crime.

There are a couple of problems with this situation.

First, the United States Supreme Court’s opinion in New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen has held that a state cannot constitutionally prohibit a citizen from carrying a firearm in public. While Bruen did recognize that there might be permissible restrictions such as on carrying in a “sensitive place,” which the Court at this point has not resolved in a specific holding. What the Court made clear is that a state is constitutionally prohibited from doing what Tennessee does, that is, making it a crime for anyone to carry a firearm anywhere absent a showing by the state that the issue is one that was subjection to the national historical tradition of regulation as of 1791. Thus, under Bruen, Tennessee’s “intent to go armed” clause is unconstitutional under the 2nd and 14th Amendments.

Second, there is a problem that Rep. Chris Todd addressed in a committee hearing just a week ago in a discussion with Ms. Stroecker concerning House bill 1005 – that is the question of what constitutional or statutory authority do taxpayer-funded individuals from the administration have to show up in the legislative branch to lecture elected legislators on what the administration thinks the public policy should be. These taxpayer-funded employees of the administration may or may not take a oath of office to defend the constitution – but their boss, Governor Bill Lee, does. How and why are these individuals and his administration – all of whom are in the executive branch of government – showing up to lecture legislators on what the administration thinks that a separate branch of government – the legislature – should or should not do as public policy. Further, where do these taxpayer-funded administrative employees have the authority to lecture the legislature in a manner suggesting that they knowingly and intentionally disregard a Supreme Court decision?

TFA members should reach out and thank Rep. John Ragan and Rep. Bud Hulsey for taking this path and at least attempting to bring Tennessee’s statutes into compliance with the Supreme Court’s Bruen ruling.

TFA members should also consider reaching out to Governor Bill Lee to discuss why his administration’s representatives are openly opposing their constitutional rights.

Video on TFA Website

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Rob J

Ms Stroeker threw around a lot of “might” and “possibly” terminology when it comes to her defense of law enforcement violating a person’s 4th Amendment. New York had their unconstitutional “Stop and Frisk” shut down, yet she is advocating for a legislative fiat for such violation. Woe is the times when the law abiding needs look over their shoulders for encroaching law enforcement seeking to state sanctioned violate their Constitutionally guaranteed right because they “might” “possibly” be exercising another. They “might” “possibly” not be, but the violation will have occurred anyway, without judicial or legislative redress. Is this not the… Read more »


Innocent until proven guilty.


No longer valid apparently.

Arkansas Rob

I guess the pre-crime police are in charge. Stop that felony before it happens by demanding proof of innocence when exercising one’s rights.


A R – that should probably be ‘wannabe’ pre-crime coppers. Problem with that is it would force them to become mind readers.
Last I knew they still have to be able to articulate either probable cause or at a minimum a reasonable suspicion – both based on being clearly able to state facts such as the why and how those are reached BEFORE they can proceed further.


Most people online think TN is a gun friendly state. It’s not. TN is turning blue like most states. How do I know? I live here.


So let me get this right, in short Tennessee is trying to initialise Dredd Cops (you know from the movie Judge Dredd) completely void of the 5th & 14th Amendment, “Your Right of Due Process” meaning that the Tennessee cops, could be judge, jury, and executioner. all just because they decided you might commit a crime, because you are carrying a gun. that is crazy and would prevent me from going into Tennessee for any reason..


This kind of vagueness only steps up the possibility of LEO’s being able to get in some target practice on the street. If the Legislature will not strip this from the law, then it is up to the people to make sure they survive on the streets.



OK, I’m going to keep on hammering on these very important points, until they are driven home. There is this thing called the Void for Vagueness Doctrine, which is easy to look up, if you don’t already know what it means. If it is agreed that the law is ambiguous, then that means also that it is vague, and the VFV doctrine automatically kicks in! So they have a law that is already vague, and they’re trying to simplify it by adding more vagueness to it? How stupid is that? PLENTY stupid! The real solution to apply here, is to… Read more »


How can a citizen, or a law enforcement agent prove or disprove INTENT? This appears to be an answer to a question that nobody is asking.


PM – short answer – unless they are mind readers they need to have articulable facts to establish that intent. That could be something along the lines of a guy wearing a mask and brandishing a gun running into a bank, Most of us would be able to determine he wasn’t going in to simply apply for a car loan


Yet more reason to tread into the elected official term limit waters very, very cautiously if at all. This is the quintessential example of how the Swamp operates. As it stands, Staff Rules. Only the elected office holder can reign this stuff in…period. I don’t know the ratio of elected representatives versus staff in Tennessee but I’ll bet you it’s very high on the staff side of the equation. Here’s a pdf from Congressional Research Service breaking down representatives staffing from 1997-2020. It is eye opening and shows the size of what has become the “Shadow Government” of unelected bureaucrats… Read more »


I carry a penis, but that doesn’t make me a rapist.


TGP – I don’t know about that – according to the feminazis (are they still around?) since you are so equipped you are simply waiting for an opportunity to commit that crime. Of course they never admit that all women are just prostitutes waiting to ply their trade since they are equipped to do so.