State of the State: Gov. Lee outline budget, legislative priorities
During his speech, Lee highlighted his budget and legislative priorities, including the state’s COVID-19 response, education, rural development and assistance for struggling families.
The Tennessee General Assembly passed a sweeping expansion of gun rights in the state in March, approving legislation to allow most adults to carry a handgun without receiving a permit.
Tennessee joins 18 other states with similar laws waiving carry permit requirements, while some top Republicans in the legislature signaled they’ll push to expand gun rights even further.
Here’s what to know about the new law:
What does the bill do?
The bill, known as permitless carry or “constitutional carry” by supporters, allows for open and concealed carrying of handguns without a permit.
It applies to people 21 and older, as well as members of the military ages 18 to 20.
The measure does not apply to long guns.
Does the bill increase gun crime penalties?
Yes. The bill removes the misdemeanor offense for most people of carrying a handgun without a permit. But it also increases punishments for certain gun crimes. The legislation:
- Boosts theft of a firearm from a misdemeanor to a felony and mandates six months of incarceration for the offense, up from the current 30-day sentence.
- Bars felons convicted of possessing a firearm from early release.
Who is not eligible under the measure?
In addition to the age requirements, those convicted of certain crimes are not eligible to carry a handgun without a permit. The measure does not apply to:
- Felons and those convicted of domestic violence offenses.
- People with a conviction of stalking and those with a recent DUI conviction.
- Individuals who have been committed by the court to a mental institution.
Who supported and opposed the bill?
Republican Gov. Bill Lee and and GOP lawmakers largely supported the measure, as did the National Rifle Association.
But law enforcement consistently opposed the bill. The Tennessee Sheriffs’ Association, the Tennessee Association of Chiefs of Police and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation all expressed opposition. Democrats and gun-control groups also spoke out against it.
Meanwhile, some gun rights groups also balked at the bill because it didn’t apply to long guns. Those groups included the National Association for Gun Rights and the Tennessee Firearms Association.
Is there a price tag?
Yes. The bill is estimated to cost the state about $20 million. That figure is based upon a loss in revenue from handgun permit fees as well as increases incarceration costs. But some Republicans have taken issue with the figure, arguing it will cost less than the administration’s projection.
When did the legislation pass?
The Senate passed the measure 23-9 on March 18. The House followed with a 64-29 vote on March 29.
Has the governor signed it?
Yes. Lee signed the measure into law on April 8.
The governor recently told the National Rifle Association it is part of his “public safety agenda.”
When does the bill take effect?