The Tennessee House of Representatives on Monday gave final approval to Republican Gov. Bill Lee’s effort to eliminate handgun carry permit requirements in the state.
The Senate previously passed the legislation and it now heads to Lee’s desk.
Some Republicans said the bill does not go far enough because it still precludes most people younger than 21 and those who have been convicted of misdemeanor stalking charges from carrying handguns and because the legislation applies only to handguns and not all firearms. But their efforts to amend and expand the bill failed during floor debate.
“This is a massive step forward for freedom,” House Majority Leader William Lamberth (R-Portland) said. “This is not the end of the road.”
Republican lawmakers pledged to continue pushing to loosen Tennessee gun laws.
The legislation is expected to cost the state millions of dollars, both in foregone revenue from residents who do not pay for a permit and in added costs for the part of the bill that increases penalties for certain gun-related crimes including theft of a firearm.
“Freedom should be just that: free,” Lamberth said. “We should not be taxing someone’s Second Amendment rights.”
Though Lamberth confidently predicted that the legislation “absolutely makes us a safer state,” most law enforcement organizations in the state have come out in opposition to the plan, arguing it would make their jobs more difficult. Democrats were quick to highlight police dissatisfaction with the proposal throughout weeks of debate on the issue.
The bill does not abolish the state’s permitting system but rather eliminates any need for most residents to obtain a permit in order to carry a handgun.
Rep. John Ray Clemmons (D-Nashville) called the measure “a substantial step backwards for the state of Tennessee."