Tennessee lawmakers are pushing for relaxed gun laws in the state, arguing that a high fee for someone who does not have a handgun permit but is just looking to protect themselves should not be permitted.
Republican Rep. Jeremy Faison said his wife carries a gun for self-protection, and the penalty of a Class A misdemeanor — up to a $500 fine and a year in jail — are too strict of a punishment for regular, law-abiding citizens exercising their Second Amendment rights, WBIR.com reports.
The hefty fees apply if a person carrying a weapon does not have a permit, and Faison said, “What I’m trying is get us closer to Constitutional carry, and I feel like it’s a good answer if we’re not going to be able to freely carry a gun.”
Constitutional carry, or the right for anyone to carry a gun without a permit if they are old enough based on the individual law and are not a convicted felon, has been implemented in several states, including Vermont, Arizona and New Hampshire.
Tennessee legislature introduced a constitutional carry bill just this year, but it was shot down in the state House in March, The Tennessean reported.
Although many opponents of constitutional carry say that the law will be a cause of increased gun violence, the lowest murder rates in the country as of 2010 were Vermont, Wyoming and North Dakota — all states that allow constitutional carry, according to the FBI.
This bill in Tennessee is described as slightly tougher than a full constitutional carry law, according to WBIR.com, because it is just reducing the penalty to $25 for permit-less gun carriers, not abolishing the penalty altogether.
Arguments against the bill include the fact that gun laws in Tennessee are already lenient, with people who have a permit able to carry their weapon however, whenever and wherever they want. Reducing the law even more in this way could also provide a “loophole” for “gang members and criminals”, Maggi Duncan, executive director of the Tennessee Association of Chiefs of Police, told WBIR.com.
Despite this, supporters say that, since Tennessee is a mostly rural area where guns are regarded as tools rather than dangerous weapons, and because gangs are a problem experienced more in urban settings, relaxing gun laws is not as big of a deal as many are making it out to be.