The election of Joe Biden may end up being the best thing that ever happened to the Constitutional Carry movement. As Democrats in Washington, D.C. press for more federal gun laws, a growing number of states are taking action to ensure that legal gun owners can carry a firearm without getting a permission slip from the state government.
Since January, both Montana and Utah have approved Constitutional Carry laws, and efforts are progressing in Indiana as well. Now, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee is putting his weight behind a Constitutional Carry bill that’s already been introduced at the state Capitol.
The governor’s office said that constitutional carry is defined in SB0765/HB0786 as advancing “Second Amendment rights by allowing law-abiding citizens to carry a handgun without a permit while enhancing penalties for firearm theft.”
According to the Tennessee General Assembly’s site, SB0765 is scheduled for the Senate Judiciary Committee calendar on March 2. The HB0786 has been placed on the calendar for the Criminal Justice subcommittee on March 3.
There are already several neighboring states that have adopted Constitutional Carry over the past few years, including Kentucky, Missouri, Arkansas, and Mississippi. Alabama is also working on its own legislation this year after a Constitutional Carry bill failed to get to the governor’s desk in 2020.
With Tennessee’s governor giving the thumbs up to the idea, I’d say the prospects for a Constitutional Carry measure look pretty good at the moment, though Democrats in the state legislature are doing their best to misinform the public about what the bill would actually do.
Nashville Democrat Mike Stewart said it will allow people to carry who have broken the law in the past.
“You can’t get a concealed carry permit if you’re under court supervision, if you have a history of violence if you have a history of stalking,” said Rep. Stewart. “Those are the people who will benefit from this bill because they will all be permitted under this terrible bill to go armed.”
That’s simply not the case. The legislation makes it clear that if you can legally own a gun, you can legally carry it. Tennessee is already a “shall issue” state in terms of its concealed carry licensing process, which means that if you meet the legal requirements then you’re issued your license. Those who don’t meet the legal requirements can’t carry now, and they wouldn’t be able to legally carry under the Constitutional Carry language either.
At this point, Constitutional Carry laws are neither new nor unusual. Nearly 40% of the United States has already adopted Constitutional Carry, and there are twice as many states that recognize the right to carry without a license as there are states that still maintain subjective-issue licensing laws on the books that allow authorities to deny someone their right to bear arms because they didn’t demonstrate “good cause” or a “justifiable need.”
Does Rep. Stewart believe that Tennesseans are somehow less trustworthy than their counterparts in Arkansas, Kentucky, Missouri, and Mississippi? I’d love to see a Nashville-based media outlet quiz Stewart about his views on the right to carry. I have a feeling that his issue isn’t solely related to carrying without a license, especially since he’s stunted in support of other gun control proposals like universal background checks in the past. It sounds like Stewart’s biggest problem isn’t Constitutional Carry, but the constitutionally-protected right to keep and bear arms itself.
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