What others editors say: Permitless carry bill should be examined carefully by legislators before it passes

Published 8:21 am Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee said Thursday that legislation will be introduced in the General Assembly that would allow the state to become the 17th in the country to have a constitutional carry law for guns.
The legislative package, though, may be the first in the country that both allows most adults to carry handguns without having to undergo training or criminal background checks and contains provisions for increased penalties for those who steal or illegally possess firearms.
Supporters say the proposal allows guns to be in the hands of law-abiding Tennesseans and takes them out of the hands of those who don’t abide by the law. In essence, they believe the state will be able to trust legal gun owners without a permit because they already have undergone a state background check in order to buy a gun.
In Tennessee, to receive a permit, a handgun owner is required to receive training (the amount varies by whether the request is for a concealed or open carry permit), undergo a separate background check and pay a fee.
We would prefer that everyone who owns a gun has to undergo some kind of safety training, but we understand the stance of Second Amendment supporters who say that requirements such as fees impede their constitutional right “to keep and bear arms.”
Supporters say this will be a better constitutional carry bill than has previously been offered in the legislature because it is not a “naked” bill in allowing the permitless carry of any type of legal gun (but only handguns), and because of the increased penalties attached to it.
Those include 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; and 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.
Although the bill has a good chance of passing with a Republican super majority in the General Assembly — and with GOP lawmakers on hand for its unveiling Thursday — the legislation could still be altered. After all, the amount of prison time for some of the penalties is not set, and neither is the status of whether police during a stop have the right to determine if someone with a gun has the legal right to possess it.
A few things to know about the proposal:
• The legislation that will be introduced does not change current law that says to buy a handgun from a licensed firearm dealer one must be 21 or older, provide a state ID and have a background check performed by a licensed firearm dealer through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.
• The proposed bill does not deal with the purchase of guns, only their ability to be carried by those without training or further background checks.
• The proposed bill does not change current law that you cannot own a handgun if you have been convicted of a felony involving the use or attempted use of force, violence or a deadly weapon; have been convicted of a felony drug offense; or are under 18.
• The proposal applies only to handguns, not assault-style rifles.
• Individuals with felony convictions, orders of protections against them or domestic violence convictions don’t qualify for permitless carry and, if caught, could receive the stiff new penalties.
• Gun owners under permitless carry, like those with permits, cannot have their guns where they are not allowed and where signs posted say no guns are permitted.
• The permitless carry proposal allows guns to be carried openly or to be concealed.
We feel sure that, as supporters claim, this will allow new opportunities for gun owners to defend themselves and their families when they are threatened, where before they had no recourse. We also fear that there will be instances where innocent people will be killed or injured when these gun owners defend themselves or their families.
If we had a crystal ball to look in the future and see how many people will be saved — or bad guys eliminated — compared to how many innocent people are killed or injured, we could make a reasonable statement as to the new law’s certain effectiveness, or lack thereof.
However, that is impossible, so we implore legislators who are in general support of a bill that is likely to pass to do their best to examine every jot and tittle of the legislation to see what might be missing from it, what needs to be changed, what is likely to hold up in court, what is likely to make people safer and what is not needed.
We realize, too, that the instances when a law-abiding gun owner — even one who is permitless — will have to use a gun in a threatening situation are minuscule, but we also want the penalties in the law to be so airtight that perpetrators will think twice about making the threats in the first place.
— Chattanooga Times Free Press

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