After the much-criticized constitutional carry bill passed the Tennessee House earlier this month, Gov. Bill Lee signed the bill into law, on April 8.
The bill, which will go into effect on July 1, 2021, will allow Tennesseans ages 21 and over, as well as military members over the age of 18, to carry handguns without a permit. The bill will allow residents to carry both open and concealed weapons on their persons.
While the bill was met with criticism from multiple law enforcement agencies claiming that passing the law would result in an increase in crime, supporters of the bill argued that it is simply an affirmation of their Second Amendment rights.
“I am very pleased that Gov. Lee has signed this legislation allowing Tennesseans to exercise their Second Amendment rights,” State Senator Paul Bailey said after the signing. “Criminals do not follow the law and don’t get background checks to carry a weapon in the commission of a crime. Current law penalizes and disarms their victims in violation of their constitutional rights of self-defense.”
As well as allowing for unpermitted carrying of handguns, the new law also increases the punishments administered for gun-related crimes. Theft of a firearm will now be considered a felony rather than a misdemeanor and comes with a mandated six months of jail time, an increase from the current 30-day sentence.
“Law-abiding citizens who possess firearms should not be penalized for exercising these rights, and this legislation removes that penalty, while increasing punishment for illegal possession by a felon and gun theft,” Bailey said, applauding the move by the governor and voicing his support of the bill.