Gun rights activists in Tennessee are planning to rally in support of legislation allowing gun owners to carry their firearms without a permit, and eliminating fees for existing firearms permits.
The event, organized by Gun Owners of America (GOA) and the Tennessee Firearms Association (TFA), is set to take place on Wednesday, March 10 at Tennessee’s capitol building in Nashville. The gun-rights groups are promoting legislation currently under consideration in the state legislature, including an end to the state’s firearms permitting process and, barring that, an elimination of licensing fees for those firearms permits.
“Currently, Tennesseans must ask the government for permission before carrying a handgun for self-defense,” GOA Director of State and Local Affairs Matthew Patterson said in a press statement. “No other Constitutionally-protected right is regulated to this degree, and that’s why Constitutional Carry is so important. It restores the right to self-defense, free of government overreach.”
“Lobby Day is an important opportunity for Tennessee gun owners to personally engage with their legislators and make a difference for this legislation,” Patterson said of the gun rights lobbying event. “GOA is also proud to partner with our friends at the TFA in hosting this event, and we look forward to working with them in activating gun owners and pushing Constitutional Carry this session.”
One legislative proposal would change key phrases in existing legislation regarding where guns may be carried, to substitute language such as “An enhanced handgun carry permit holder” or “concealed handgun carry permit holder” to instead say “a person.” The proposal would then extend carry rights to all people over the age of 21, while maintaining existing limits to firearms ownership for otherwise prohibited criminal offenders.
According to the TFA, it is not yet clear if the proposed legislation would punish those who inadvertently carry their firearms into existing gun-free zones. The Tennessee-based gun rights organization indicated it still has concerns about the language of the proposed bill, though Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee suggested the legislation would effectively place the state among 16 others that have already passed some form of “constitutional carry” provision.
“After hearing the press announcement and without the opportunity to actually see the ‘devil in the details’ regarding the bill itself, it is still impossible to say whether the bill is as pro-2nd Amendment as the Governor and the Legislative speakers suggested,” the TFA wrote in a Feb. 27 press release. “Certainly, they have information that is not publicly available at this time.”
The legislation does indicate that those who carry their firearms in a gun-free zone must still carry and be prepared to display an enhanced handgun carry permit if stopped by law enforcement. The TFA encourages its members to schedule meetings with their local lawmakers on the day of the gun rights rally and encourage more specific language for the constitutional carry law and ending gun-free zone limits.