MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Gun violence in the City of Memphis continues to rise, and this is happening as the permitless carry law goes into effect July 1.
City officials have said passing of the legislation would endanger the “health, welfare and public safety” of those in the city of Memphis. At the same time, Memphians we spoke to had mixed reactions about the law.
“It’s just a matter of who is getting access to these weapons and will this cause a spike in the crime rate,” said Deja, who does not the support permitless carry law.
As mentioned, on the first of next month, Tennesseans ages 21 and over and military members over the age of 18 will be allowed to carry open or concealed handguns without a permit.
The bill has been at the center of debate among public officials for months leading up to Governor Bill Lee signing it back in April.
Law enforcement agencies including the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) and the Tennessee Sheriffs’ Association have all opposed the law.
Just in the first quarter in 2021, there was a 30% increase in gun crimes compared to 2020, according to the Memphis Shelby Crime Commission.
Several people we spoke to say they fear this law will make things worse.
“I feel like the violence in Memphis is already terrible, and it’s only going to make everything worse. It’s going to have a lot of people in fear of just leaving their homes,” said one Memphis woman.
Deja, who does not support the permitless carry law, added, “Knowing that everyone has access, it does make me really reconsider what areas I need to be in or is this going to be a problem long term.”
Governor Lee has argued that allowing more law-abiding citizens to carry guns would make Tennessee safer, and some people we spoke to agree.
“Who wants a gun and is letting a permit stop them from getting one? If you want a gun to commit violent acts, you’re going to get a gun,” said Sam Cox, who supports the permitless carry law.
Jason Gray, who also supports the permitless carry law, added, “You always want to be able to protect yourself and hope to God you never have to.”
Gray lives in Mississippi but works in Memphis. He says his son is a law enforcement officer in Shelby County, and they both support the law.
“You can take the guns away from the good guys, but you can’t take the guns away from the bad guys. They’re going to get their guns, and they’re going to commit their crimes,” said Gray.
The legislation would also increase criminal penalties including a class e felony for stealing guns.