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By Chris Hagan | March 30, 2021 at 5: 13 PM CDT - Updated March 30 at 6: 32 PM
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - The Tennessee Legislature has passed a bill that would allow Tennesseans over the age of 21 to carry a handgun without a permit.
The controversial law is opposed by many state law enforcement groups.
Through this new law, which has yet to be signed by Governor Bill Lee, people in Tennessee buying a handgun would no longer be required to get a permit although you can still get one if you would like to take your gun outside of the state.
The law also includes tougher penalties for gun-related crimes.
The permitless carry bill, dubbed by supporters as “Constitutional Carry” allows everyone over 21 years old in Tennessee and members of the military age 18 to 21 to own and carry a handgun without a permit.
Republican State Representative Chris Hurt representing Lauderdale, Crocket and Haywood Counties voted for the bill.
Tennessee Legislature approves permitless handgun carry bill
“Those penalties along with defending the second amendment and allowing families and people to defend themselves in Tennessee. I think it’s a win-win,” said Hurt.
Democratic Representative Antonio Parkinson representing North Memphis voted against permitless carry.
Parkinson, a former Marine who describes himself as a pro-gun Democrat, says he’s concerned permitless carry removes the gun safety class required through a gun permitting process.
“Everyone shouldn’t be walking around here with the ability to be in possession of a firearm without any gun safety requirements tied to it,” said Parkinson.
Many state law enforcement groups oppose permitless carry including the Tennessee Sheriff’s Association and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.
Locally, Memphis Police Director Mike Rallings, Shelby County Sheriff Floyd Bonner and District Attorney Amy Weirich also did not support the bill.
“I think it will make all law enforcement across the state job a lot more dangerous,” said Bonner.
“This is going to make it harder for law enforcement to protect us,” said Weirich.
Weirich says she is torn on the bill because it also includes tougher penalties for Tennesseans who commit gun crimes which she supports.
The bill boosts theft of a firearm from a misdemeanor to a felony and prevents felons convicted of illegally possessing a firearm from being released early.
“And that will give us the ability to seek longer prison sentences for individuals who steal guns and then use those deadly weapons to commit crimes,” said Weirich.
Law-abiding Tennesseans will soon be able to carry a handgun in our state without unnecessary permission from the government. Tennessee becomes the 19th state with constitutional carry and it is core to our public safety agenda this year.
— Gov. Bill Lee (@GovBillLee) March 30, 2021
Bonner is hoping that Lee decides not to sign the bill into law, although that is looking incredibly unlikely since he has expressed his support for the bill and tweeted his approval of permitless carry this morning.
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