MEMPHIS, Tenn. – – A lot of Tennesseans will soon be able to carry handguns without a permit. A bill allowing the practice for those 21 and older currently sits on Governor Bill Lee’s desk. The policy would take effect July 1st if he signs the legislation which he says he intends to do.
“It’s a mistake,” said Will Dougan, an instructor at Top Gun in Northeast Memphis.
He says permits and instruction are crucial. He says people need to know how to use a weapon before carrying it. That includes knowing the state’s gun laws.
“When you can use it. How to use it safely. How to use it properly. When the law allows you to use it for self defense,” Dougan said.
Governor Lee believes more law-abiding citizens with guns will make Tennessee safer but Memphis pastor Christopher Davis at St. Paul Baptist Church disagrees. Many members of his congregation live in areas like Whitehaven and Frayser where gun crime is a constant problem. He believes permitless carry will lead to more gun violence.
“We’re about to turn into the OK Corral in Memphis,” Pastor Davis said.
Police director Michael Rallings fears the policy will put residents and his officers in greater danger.
“We will assume that everybody is armed,” Dir. Rallings said, “But we’re talking about people having the right to stand on a corner armed with no legitimate purpose other than just kind of hanging out.”
The legislation doesn’t change background check requirements for buying guns. It also increases the penalty for stealing firearms to a class E felony which carries up to six years in prison.
“A criminal could give two flying flips about your laws,” Dougan said, “What does he care? He has no respect of your laws to start with.”
Schools and businesses can still ban guns on their premises.
Dougan hopes inexperienced gun owners will still take a class even though permitless carry wouldn’t require it.