Tennessee General Assembly Enacts Permitless Handgun Carry Proposal

Top Gun employee Heather demonstrates a secure grip for accurate and safe shooting. Photo by Carolyn Bahm.

Star Staff Reports

In what most observers view as a major setback in tackling gun violence, the Tennessee General Assembly has enacted legislation allowing permitless carrying of handguns in public, both concealed and openly. 

The new law will allow anyone 21 or older and who is otherwise allowed to possess a handgun to carry in public, with no required training or background check. It will undermine the state’s current permit system, which requires both some training and a background check.

Law enforcement leaders – including Memphis Police Director Michael Rallings and Shelby County Sheriff Floyd Bonner – warned that passage would inevitably lead to more guns on our streets and in our neighborhoods in the hands of individuals with no training and no background check, sometimes with bad intentions.

 The Crime Commission board of directors voted unanimously to oppose the proposal, with 40 out of 50 members participating in the vote.

A majority of legislators from Memphis/Shelby County voted against the proposal, with some under intense pressure to support it. Those local legislators who voted “no” are:

State Senators:  Raumesh Akbari, Brain Kelsey, Sara Kyle, and Katrina Robinson

State Representatives:  Karen Camper, Jesse Chism, Barbara Cooper, John Gillespie, G. A. Hardaway, Torrey Harris, London Lamar, Larry Miller, Antonio Parkinson, Dwayne Thompson, and Mark White.

In 2014, the General Assembly enacted legislation allowing permitless carrying of handguns in vehicles. Since then, drive-by shootings – including on the interstates – have skyrocketed, as have thefts of guns from vehicles. 

In 2014, 459 guns were reported stolen from vehicles in Memphis. By 2020, the number had jumped to 1,324. In 2020, there were 2,592 calls for service in Memphis for persons being hit by gunfire, compared to 1,624 in 2016.