In an unexpected procedural move, state Senators killed a measure on Tuesday that many thought would advance and relax penalties for carrying a gun without a permit in Tennessee.
The Senate Judiciary Committee effectively killed the bill by not offering a second to a motion to discuss the bill, which preempts any discussion and subsequent vote.
Sen. Frank Niceley, R-Strawberry Plains, said he was surprised by the move.
“It’s not dead, we can bring it up next year,” he said.
Niceley said he suspects some committee members didn’t want take up the measure since it would conflict with an effort to get what is known as Constitutional carry passed. That effort would eliminate any need for a carry permit.
All of the state’s major law enforcement agencies and the governor’s office had testified against the bill prior to Tuesday’s Senate hearing. Lt. Gov. Randy McNally, R-Oak Ridge, praised the committee for its actions and praised the state’s current permitting process.
The bill would have removed jail time from the first two offenses of carrying without a permit, and only subjecting people to a $100 fine for the first offense and $250 for the second offense. Currently, the first offense is a Class A misdemeanor.
“The way the law is now, if you get a Barney Fife out there somewhere — they don’t all act like Andy Griffith — if you get one like Barney Fife, he can take her gun, fine her $500 and put her in jail if he wants to. Now why wouldn’t they listen to that,” Niceley said.
The measure has moved through House committees despite opposition from major law enforcement agencies who have argued it could create loopholes that would prevent officers from being able to confiscate firearms from people officers know are armed and believe to be dangerous.
Kenny Collins, chair of the Knox County Young Republicans, said he brought the bill to Niceley and the House sponsor, Rep. Jeremy Faison, R-Cosby, and said it was a “criminal justice reform bill to keep people out of the court system.”
Collins pointed to a case brought up in House discussions by Rep. Mike Carter, R-Ooltewah, a former judge who heard a case of a man who was charged with intent to go armed but declined to punish him because he said he carried his weapon to protect himself while walking to and from work.
“That’s the kind of people we’re trying to protect,” Collins said.
Jake Lowary covers Tennessee politics and state government for the USA Today Network.
Tennessee State Judiciary Committee
Brian Kelsey Chair
Doug Overbey 1st Vice-Chair
Janice Bowling 2nd Vice-Chair