GALLATIN, Tenn. (WKRN) — Governor Bill Lee ceremoniously signed the permitless carry gun bill at Beretta, a firearm manufacturer, in Gallatin Wednesday.
Gov. Lee is reigniting conversation over the controversial bill that allows Tennesseans ages 21 and over and military members over the age of 18 to carry open or concealed handguns without a permit. It also increases punishments for gun-related crimes.
Tennessee has the 12th highest rate of gun deaths in the United States.
Law enforcement agencies including the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) and the Tennessee Sheriffs’ Association have spoken out against the legislation.
“Every law enforcement agency in this state felt this was a bad public policy, and I agree with them,” Memphis Representative Karen Camper said.
Camper, a retired Chief Warrant Officer with the US Army, said the law is misguided.
“You can’t turn the news on today without seeing a mass shooting somewhere in this country, and so I just think it’s the wrong thing to do,” Camper continued, “And I think the timing is wrong. I just think everything about it is wrong.”
Gov. Lee is touting the law as part of his public safety agenda crediting much of the bill to the NRA.
Tennessee faith leaders have also spoken out against the permitless carry law.
“Whenever we are allowing a lobbying group like the NRA to be the forefront of legislation in our state, we can best guarantee – we can probably say with some absolute certainty – that it’s not the best for the people,” Aaron Marble, Senior Pastor with Jefferson St. Missionary Baptist Church and member of the Southern Christian Coalition said.
Parents like Shaundelle Brooks, whose son Akilah Dasilva, was killed in a mass shooting at a Waffle House in Nashville said gun safety shouldn’t be a partisan issue.
“He said he was for all Tennesseans, but I haven’t seen that so far. It’s like Republicans over here and Democrats over here and you know. But like I said, this is definitely a slap in the face,” Brooks said.
On average 58% of gun deaths in Tennessee are from suicides.
According to the CDC in 2019, the Volunteer State had the 10th highest rate of homicides.
“He gave in to the pressures of an NRA versus having an open mind looking at the state that he’s governing, and looking at the demographics of his state, and looking at the desires and the wants and the needs of this state, and he decided to go with special interests,” Camper said.
The bill does not officially become law until July 1.