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Despite Continued Gun Violence, Tennessee Lawmakers Continue to Push Extreme Gun Bills

Gun violence has persisted throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and experts are warning about heightened risks of gun suicide, gun-related domestic violence, and unintentional shootings. Over the past four days, a teenager was shot and killed and a toddler was wounded in Memphis, three people were shot at an event in Nashville, and a 24-year old Knoxville woman was shot and killed outside a convenience store. 

Despite this, Tennessee House lawmakers continue to push reckless gun bills that would force more guns on college campuses, allow people to carry concealed, loaded handguns in public without a background check or safety training, and expand Tennessee’s existing Stand Your Ground law to further delay and possibly discourage people from seeking justice in the civil court system.

On HB 2660: Stand Your Ground Expansion
The Tennessee House passed HB 2660 last week, attempting to expand the state’s existing Stand Your Ground law by delaying and possibly discouraging people from seeking justice in the civil court system. Stand Your Ground laws are associated with clear increases in gun homicides and encourage violence, often among those with violent backgrounds. And when white shooters kill Black victims, the resulting homicides are deemed justifiable 11 times more frequently than when the shooter is Black and the victim is white. More information about Stand Your Ground laws is available here.

On HB 2102: Guns On Campus
HB2102 was advanced by the House Judiciary Committee last week. Professors, students, and parents agree – guns have no place on college campuses, and state legislators shouldn’t make colleges less safe by forcing them to allow concealed handguns in dorms, classrooms, sporting events, and other sensitive areas. The Tennessee University Faculty Senates (TUFS), representing over 10,000 faculty members at Tennessee’s ten public universities, publicly opposes HB2102/SB2288. Allowing guns on campus could also increase the risk of gun suicide for students. The firearm suicide rate for children and teens has increased by 65 percent in the past decade – and access to firearms increases the risk of suicide by three times.
 
On HB 2817, 2661, 1553: Permitless Carry
Over the past month, various House committees have advanced different versions of permitless carry bills, risky legislation that would allow people to carry concealed, loaded handguns in public without a background check or any safety training. Broad coalitions of local officials, gun safety instructors, faith leaders, business owners, and more have come out in opposition to this deadly policy.

More than 80 business owners from across Tennessee sent a letter to the Governor and legislature against permitless carry legislation. In Knoxville, Mayor Indya Kincannon, Police Chief Eve Thomas, and Councilwoman Seema Singh have opposed the policy. In Memphis, Police Director Michael Rallings, Mayor Jim Strickland, Shelby County District Attorney Amy Weirich, and the Memphis Crime Commission have urged lawmakers to reject permitless carry. In Nashville, District Attorney Glenn Funk and Mayor John Cooper have spoken out against the bill. The director of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigations also testified against the bill. 

Ninety-three percent of recent Tennessee voters support requiring a permit to carry a loaded handgun in public — including 92 percent of Republicans and 91 percent of gun-owning households. Sixty-five percent of recent voters would be less likely to vote for Gov. Lee if he signed legislation that would eliminate the requirement to get a permit in order to carry a loaded handgun in public.