Tennessee gun bill passes committee despite Memphis opposition

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A bill that would allow Tennesseans to carry guns without a permit passed its first hurdle in the state capitol, after the Memphis police director told lawmakers it would be detrimental to the city’s safety

Memphis Police Director Michael Rallings went to Nashville to express his concern to lawmakers,
but it didn’t work.

“With masks and guns, it will appear to be the wild, wild West,” Rallings said.

The bill would allow Tennesseans 21 and older, or a military member between 18 and 20, to go armed without a permit. It sparked hours of discussion Tuesday in the House Judiciary Committee, where it ultimately passed.

Shelby County Crime Commission President Bill Gibbons said he’s nervous about what it could mean for convicted felons.

“They will be emboldened to carry firearms even more and openly, because they know there is no basis for police to stop them and ask if they have a permit,” Gibbons said.

Rallings also addressed lawmakers, saying he believes permitless carry will increase violence at a time when violent crime is up 5% in the Bluff City, aggravated assaults and shootings up 8% and murders up 30%. He said 90% of the murders so far this year were committed with firearms.

He also told lawmakers he thinks it will endanger the lives of your men and women on the MPD force.

“I fully believe in our Second Amendment right; however, I am against illegal guns,” Rallings explained Wednesday. “By moving forward with this law, we are going in the wrong direction.”

Rallings released a further statement Wednesday, saying:

I went before the House Judiciary Committee yesterday, standing up for the safety of all the citizens of Tennessee.  I am not against guns, and I fully believe in our Second Amendment right; however, I am against illegal guns and guns that are being used to kill kids and law-abiding citizens. We are losing too many lives to gun violence. By moving forward with this law, we are going in the wrong direction.   The last thing Tennessee needs is gun legislation that will allow the permitless carry of handguns, concealed or unconcealed, without a permit. We have a permit process in place. We should leave the system as is which requires training and a background check. Maintaining these guidelines is crucial for everyone’s safety.

Kat McRitchie with Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America said it’s extremely frustrating to see the legislature take up bills that she says are not essential bills in this coronavirus pandemic.
“The permitting system is our mechanism as citizens, to demonstrate what responsible carrying looks like,” she said.

But others disagree, like state Rep. Bruce Griffey (R-Paris).

“I do not think it’s proper for this legislative body to tell a law abiding citizen that you have to go do something extra to protect yourself, your family and your home,” Griffey said.

The bill also contains a part that would stiffen penalties for stealing a gun, making it a felony and mandating a six-month sentence.

Gibbons said the crime commission would support that part of the bill.

Supporters of the bill feel like it will only be a around a $3 million loss for the state. Gibbons felt like that was too optimistic and thinks it’s going to be more around $20 million.

The bill has more hurdles to cross before it becomes law. It next goes to House Finance Committee.

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