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Gov. Lee right-to-carry bill blurry on your constitutional rights

A woman aims a rifle with a 30-round magazine. (Photo Flickr-Aero Precision AC-15 /by Tac6 Media/CC BY 2.0)

Some have asked for a “non-attorney” explanation of what is wrong with Governor Lee’s bill.

By John Harris / Tennessee Firearms Association

Taking off my attorney hat and putting on my deer-hunting hat, try this:

Most people say that they believe in the 2nd Amendment. Most believe that the 2nd Amendment protects a right that every citizen in the entire county has to have and carry guns for all purposes. Most people, at least people from Tennessee, believe God gave us this right.

The bill as proposed does not recognize that it’s my right and your right to have and carry guns, not just handguns.

Here are some of those facts.

Landmines, traps in Lee plan

First, it only applies to Tennesseans. Does it say that specifically, no. But that is the trickery of referencing the enhanced permit statute. So, citizens of our border states and other states have no rights that Tennessee would recognize under this bill. Its not being treated as a right but an exception for some citizens to a criminal charge.

Second, if it’s a right it must apply to any citizen who can legally own, purchase or possess and handgun. This one does not. Again, by referencing the enhanced permit statute the proposed bill only applies to Tennessee citizens who are lawful citizens or permanent residents who are at least 21 year old or a small set of 18-20 year olds in the military. But under state and federal law, any 18-year-old can buy a handgun from another citizen. The 21 year old limit is only a limit on who federal gun dealers can sell to. Existing Tennessee laws already recognize that anyone 18 and up can purchase, possess, own and use a handgun.

Third, if it’s a right it should apply based on a person’s right to own guns. This bill does not. This bill fails to recognize the right by adopting the special conditions on the enhanced permit such a person cannot have 2 or more DUIs in the last 10 years as prohibitions on the right to carry a handgun. If you want to include all those prohibitions why not just make the enhanced permit free and get rid of the training requirement because all the other conditions are being used to infringe the rights of lawful gun owners?

Fourth, if it’s a right it should be a right everywhere. This bill says it only applies where the person has a right to be. What does that mean? If I don’t have a right to be in a mall because I am not wearing a shirt should I also be criminally prosecuted if I have a gun in my pocket?

Fifth, it it’s a right it should be a right at least in publicly owned parks and buildings as well as the streets and all parking lots. This law does not allow citizens who are exercising a right to even go in a park or walk on a greenway and there is no reason not to do that.

Sixth, if it’s a right, I should be able to drive to work and leave my lawfully owned handgun in my personal car. I can if I have a permit because that is already the law. But if I just want to exercise my right to carry a firearm I cannot do that under this law which means I could be fired for leaving my gun in my personal car just because I parked at work.

Seventh, if you want to pass constitutional carry, then treat it as a right that the people have with or without the constitution. That is not what this bill does. This bill leaves on the books the criminal penalties for illegally carrying a gun. The bill uses these existing criminal laws as a threat to charge people who are only trying to exercise a right and then creates a defense to the criminal charge if the citizen happens to meet all of the conditions, conditions which are really nothing more than infringements.

Real constitutional carry

So, if you really want to pass constitutional carry all you need to do is say that a person who can legally purchase or possess a firearm has the right to carry it in Tennessee and to do so in public places (not private), on public property (not private property) and even while parking their vehicles in places where they are allowed to park. Constitutional carry needs nothing more than the removal of infringements.

On the other hand if all you want to do is to create a defense to a criminal charge with a lot of conditions and qualifications this accomplishes that. But, if you do that, don’t mislabel it as “constitutional carry.”

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