NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) - A bill that would allow people to carry a gun without a permit in Tennessee is on its way to Governor Lee’s desk. The bill allows for people 21 and older to 'permitless carry'. Right now, to get an open-carry gun carry permit in Tennessee, you need to take an 8-hour in-person course or an online 90-minute course, but a possible new law wouldn’t require that.
It’s a constitutional right to keep and bear arms, and at Royal Range in Bellevue, they stand behind that.
“There’s a lot more to it, you know, than strapping a firearm on and walking around on the street,” says Shane Kerwin, Royal Range Training Manager.
Kerwin teaches new shooters, military, and law enforcement officers on how and when to use a gun.
“If we don’t have that training to back that up, then it could be a responsibility on our point or our part to have a firearm and not know how to use it, not know how to employ it and risk other people being injured and potentially going to jail.”
Right now, it’s a misdemeanor offense for people carrying a handgun without a permit, but this bill removes that. It does raise the punishment for those who steal a firearm from a misdemeanor to a felony charge.
Royal Range also saw an uptick in class signups after the pandemic hit. Kerwin says people were looking to get their gun carry permits. He says it’s an important course that may not be needed if Governor Lee signs the “constitutional carry” bill.
“That we protect the lives of Tennesseans, that we protect the constitutional rights of Tennesseans, that we fight crime, including gun crime wherever we can,” said Governor Lee in a press conference on Monday. “I think it’s possible to do all those at the same time.”
Lawmakers say the new law wouldn’t take away property rights. So, if a school, church, or federal building does not allow firearms on property, gunowners must abide.
And while Kerwin says less people might come to Royal Range for gun education, he’s still hopeful.
“I think we are going to be pleasantly surprised that there are going to be a lot of folks that realize their responsibility and decide “Hey, I’m going to get some associated training with it also”,” Kerwin says.
Felons, people convicted of stalking, and those with a recent DUI conviction will not have the right to carry a permitless gun if this bill passes into law.
Lawmakers anticipate Governor Lee will sign the bill into law in the next week or two. It won’t go into effect until July 1.