HOW DOES TENNESSEE COMPARE TO THE “SERIOUS ATTACK” ON THE 2ND AMENDMENT IN VIRGINIA?

Tennessee Firearms Association

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The news media is on fire for the last few weeks about the events that have been taking place in Virginia and that are scheduled for today. Even President Trump recently tweeted that “your 2nd Amendment is under very serious attack” in Virginia.

While there is a great deal of main stream media focus on the expected citizen response today to what had traditionally been a 2nd Amendment “lobby day” in Virginia for close to two decades, very little main stream media attention has addressed the substance of the serious attack on the 2nd Amendment which is coming solely from Virginia’s governor, its legislature and those on the left who are propping up and encouraging these elected officials.

Some news reports do mention in passing the general substance of the proposed changes in the law that constitute this “serious attack” by the Virginia government on the 2nd Amendment. One news outlet summarizes the list of legislative proposals as follows…

  • Ban assault weapons, silencers, high-capacity magazines and other “dangerous weapons.”
  • Require background checks on all firearm transactions.
  • Reinstate the law — repealed in 2012 — allowing no more than one handgun purchase a month.
  • Allow municipalities to enact “ordinances that are stricter than state law.” Among the examples they cite: rules banning guns in libraries or municipal buildings.
  • Require lost or stolen guns to be reported to authorities within one day.
  • Allow law enforcement to “temporarily separate a person from firearms if the person exhibits dangerous behavior that presents an immediate threat to self or others.”
  • Prohibit the subjects of protective orders from possessing guns.
  • Toughen punishment for allowing access of a loaded, “unsecured” firearm to someone 18 or younger.

One might wonder how does this list compare to existing or proposed legislation in Tennessee which has had a Republican governor and super majority in the Legislature since 2010.

Ban on assault weapons, suppressors, high capacity magazines and other “dangerous weapons”. Presently, Tennessee does have a law which bans ownership of NFA items unless the person is fully in compliance with federal registration requirements. Tennessee no longer regulates suppressors but they cannot be legally possessed here unless the suppressor is properly registered. Tennessee does not allow citizens to openly carry longarms in public including semi-automatic firearms such as the AR15.

Require background checks on all firearms transactions. Tennessee law does require all transfers f firearms involving licensed gun dealers to have a background check. In addition, there is regularly talk in Tennessee about requiring background checks on civilian transactions of used firearms which most likely would require that those transfers take place through a licensed dealer. Tennessee has also enacted a law which makes it a crime for a citizen to transfer a firearm to another citizen if the person knows that the person receiving the firearm is prohibited by state or federal law from owning, possessing or purchasing a firearm.

One gun a month laws. Although bills to enact limits on the number of firearms a person can purchase during a period of time have been filed in the past in Tennessee, current law contains no such limit.

Allow municipalities to enact “ordinances that are stricter than state law.” While this is a proposed law in Virginia, Tennessee already has this law. In Tennessee local governments can, in some instances even without an ordinance, place restrictions on public buildings and properties to make them “gun free zones”. Efforts to materially limit local government authority to post these local government buildings as “gun free” have not been well received by the GOP controlled legislature. Further, as a result of legislation passed since the GOP control materialized, there are ways in which local governments can effectively prohibit citizens with carrying in public parks and other locations without even being required to post notices.

Require lost or stolen guns to be reported within one day. Tennessee apparently does not have this law and to TFA recollection no such proposals have been filed in recent years.

Allow law enforcement to “temporarily separate a person from firearms if the person exhibits dangerous behavior that presents an immediate threat to self or others.” This is essentially the issue of “extreme risk protection orders” which the left tries to make palatable by referring to as “red flag” laws. Significantly, a Tennessee Republican senator has filed this in Tennessee. One might assume, with significant comfort, that certain state and law enforcement advocacy groups like the District Attorney’s Conference, the Sheriffs’ Association and the Chiefs of Police are either supporting these kinds of laws or at most “publicly neutral”. Yet, Tennessee already has laws which allow the government to flag someone as an immediate risk of harm to themselves or someone else and, if that happens, the person can be unwillingly admitted to a psychiatric facility and separated from their firearms. Arguably, however, Tennessee’s emergency restriction laws have more protections for the individual, at least as written.

Prohibit the subjects of protective orders from possessing firearms. Tennessee already has this law.

Toughen punishment for allowing access of a loaded, “unsecured” firearm to someone 18 or younger. Tennessee already has laws which impose criminal penalties on transfers of firearms to minors although there are exceptions such as gifts by parents. Tennessee also has a “snitch law” which makes it a crime to know a juvenile has a gun and not report it to authorities. We frequently see a variety of bills from legislators seeking to impose gun control “for the children” or to make sure juveniles do not have possession of or access to guns. Very few laws are introduced, if any, in Tennessee which would attempt to properly promote safe and responsible firearms ownership or a true understanding of the 2nd Amendment to our state’s youth.

Another topic discussed relative to the Virginia matter although not a law is an executive action to ban guns from the capital. Interestingly, Tennessee has had such laws for many years – even prohibitions on permit holders. In Tennessee, it is not a statute that prohibits firearms or more specifically armed permit holders from the capital or legislative offices, it is the personal choices of elected leaders specifically the governor, the House speaker and the Lt. Governor. A few years ago, the House Speaker and Lt. Governor changed the policy with respect to the Legislature to allow permit holders (one they go through a thorough “scan”) to carry concealed only in the legislature’s office building and committee hearing rooms. However, both Governor Haslam and now Governor Lee have prohibited firearms and armed permit holders anywhere in the capital including those areas of the capital where the legislative chambers are located. The capital, the legislature and many other public buildings could be made “permit holder” or gun owner friendly but the GOP super majority has not pursued this in the last 9 years.

One might conclude that given what the Democrats are attempting to do in Virginia that Tennessee is better for gun owners. One might also conclude that Democrat control of the state legislature, which existed for almost 150 years prior to 2010, is not likely to recur in Tennessee in the foreseeable future.

But the real issue is not whether Tennessee is better or worse than Virginia. The question perhaps is that with Tennessee having a Republican governor and super majority since 2010 why is it that Tennessee is not the absolute best state for gun owners in the nation. Why is it we still do not have constitutional carry? Why do we have so many public buildings and properties that are gun free? Why do we have handgun carry laws that are almost beyond common comprehension? Why do we have carry laws that on their face appear to be blatantly unconstitutional or void for being too vague?

Tennesseans need to be watching what is taking place in Virginia but perhaps they need to be watching what is taking place in Nashville and the state’s majority cities even more.

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