BOLIVAR, Tenn. — Just one day after the Tennessee Senate passed a bill that would let people carry guns even if they don’t have permits, Gov. Bill Lee addressed the measure in a visit to the Mid-South.
But the governor would not say whether he’s spoken with Memphis leaders, who are worried it will bring more violence and endanger officers. Police Director Michael Rallings and Shelby County District Attorney Amy Weirich have spoken out against the measure.
“We can protect law enforcement, we can protect our citizens and we can protect the 2nd Amendment all at the same time. That’s what we’re trying to do here,” Lee said.
State lawmakers voted 23-9 in favor of the bill this week. Lee acknowledged its momentum, citing other states that have followed this route.
“There are 17 other states in the country that have similar laws for Constitutional carry, and I’m encouraged about the direction of that bill and where it’s headed,” Lee said.
Supporters of the permitless carry bill cite its stricter penalties for firearm theft as adequate gun safety precautions.
But not all Tennesseans agree. A number of Bolivar residents attended Lee’s speech, even making signs to protest the permitless carry bill. They cited law enforcement officials, including those in Memphis, who are concerned about more gun violence if the bill is passed.
“Other law enforcement, they give their expert opinion, but they think they know better. So, I’m like, why do they not listen to the people where this is what they do day in and day out?” Bolivar resident Caroline Miller said. “I think we’re going in the wrong direction when it comes to gun laws. We should be making it harder to get guns instead of easier.”
State Sen. Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown) said Friday on WREG’s Live At 9 that he expects the bill to pass in the state House, although he voted against it in the Senate.
“To many rural Tennesseans, it’s important to have the ability to carry a gun without a permit,” Kelsey said. “However, in my district, well over 90% of the voters are actually opposed to this measure and that’s why I ended up voting against it yesterday.”
The Tennessee House still needs to vote on the permitless carry bill before it can be signed by the Governor.
State Rep. Antonio Parkinson (D-Memphis) called the bill bad policy that puts local law enforcement offiers in danger.
“Every law enforcement agency says this is a bad bill,” Parkinson said.