(Photo: Karen Pulfer Focht)
Even some Tennessee gun enthusiasts are hard-pressed to say that the state’s controversial new permitless gun carry law won’t have negative effects.
Starting today, permits will no longer be required to carry a handgun publicly in Tennessee, nor will new gun owners be required to take training.
But that’s not to say gun owners shouldn’t learn to handle a weapon capable of deadly consequences, said Blaise Lane, ex-military and manager of High Caliber Weaponry & Training located on Lebanon Pike.
His gun shop is set to open next week, and he’s already anticipating a slight increase in gun sales and a decrease in people seeking his training services. But Lane hopes this may just be a temporary setback, because as a Second Amendment supporter, he firmly believes everyone needs to learn gun safety.
“The idea that is out there is that ‘I will buy a gun and I’ll be safe;’ but when you are in the gun shop and you’re handed a gun and expected to load it, the realization that ‘I don’t know anything about this’ sets in very quickly and very heavily, “ he said.
Tennessee is not the only state with relaxed gun laws, but Tennessee has received national coverage because of it. In addition to dropping the requirement for permits, penalties for gun-related crimes were enhanced through legislation passed in 2021. For instance, stolen firearms worth less that $2,500 will be considered a Class E felony, and jail time was raised from a minimum of 30 days to 180 days.
Gov. Bill Lee has anticipated an increase in incarceration rates and set aside $17.7 million in his budget plan, but gun-advocates believe the hoopla will die down eventually.
“I think this is a legislative victory for Second Amendment advocates that probably won’t translate into any real difference in the average person’s life,” said Dana McLendon, a Franklin-based criminal justice attorney and Second Amendment advocate. McLendon added that anyone who wanted to buy a gun would have done so by now.
Gun sales nationwide have increased exponentially over the past year. From March 15 to March 21 in 2021, the FBI reported 1,218,002 background checks, the highest since 2012.
In 2020, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation recorded 698,936 approved gun transactions, an increase from 464,563 approved gun transactions in 2019. From January to April of this year, there’s been almost 250,000 approved gun transactions, and that number is expected to continue growing.
Since permits will no longer be required, some gun shops may lose income from training sessions, but McLendon reckons people will still continue seeking services.
“If you have a teenager who’s getting ready to start driving, you don’t have to take them to driving lessons, but most people do,” he said.
I think this is a legislative victory for Second Amendment advocates that probably won't translate into any real difference in the average person's life.
– Dana McClendon, attorney, of the permitless carry law
Still it’s important to understand that permitless gun carry law is not an excuse to have a lackadaisical attitude toward gun ownership, according to Lane.
The problem with a permitless law, said Lane, is that there’s a gap between gun-safety education and the law’s implementation. Permits will still be required to enter certain areas, such as government buildings, and Tennessee laws do not extend over the border into other states. New gun owners need to consider where the gun will be stored, especially if they have children, and remember that they’re still responsible for every death they cause, even accidental ones.
Just because permits are no longer required doesn’t mean that gun shops aren’t going to strongly encourage training to understand the responsibility of gun ownership.
“Anyone working behind the counter, they don’t want to get shot by someone who’s inexperienced in carrying a firearm in their own shop,” said Lane.
Because there’s now going to be a gap between gun education and gun sales, Lane anticipates any bad incident will eventually be used against the gun law.
“Now are there going to be some yahoos that flex and flaunt their new permit-less permission to carry? Yeah probably,” said McLendon.
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