A constitutional carry bill is on the move in the Tennessee House of Representatives.
This week, the House Judiciary Committee voted 16-7 in favor of House Bill 2817, which would allow law-abiding residents to carry concealed firearms without a permit.
Along with restoring one’s right to keep and bear arms the way the founders and framers of our Constitution intended, HB 2817 would strengthen penalties for gun thieves.
Under current law, gun theft is a misdemeanor crime with a 30-day mandatory jail sentence. The new legislation would up it to a felony charge with a six-month mandatory stay behind bars.
The bill, now headed to the Finance, Ways & Means Committee for further consideration, had the support of Gov. Bill Lee when it was introduced back in February.
“The Second Amendment is clear and concise and secures the freedoms of law-abiding citizens to keep and bear arms,” Lee said. “I am pleased to announce Constitutional Carry legislation today that will protect the Second Amendment rights of Tennesseans, while also stiffening penalties on criminals who steal or illegally possess firearms.”
However, since the breakout of the novel coronavirus Lee has indicated that any legislation not focused on state finances would be put on the back burner.
“My priority is going to be on the state’s budget and making sure that we make the decisions that are going to best serve Tennesseans through this next particularly challenging economic period,” Lee said last month.
Memphis Police Director Michael Rallings testified on Tuesday in opposition to the bill. An Army Reservist, competitive shooter, and handgun instructor, Rallings believes that constitutional carry makes cities like Memphis “less safe” and police officers “more vulnerable.”
“I am not against guns,” Rallings declared. “I am against illegal guns and guns being used against kids and to harm and kill law-abiding citizens.”
He added, “More guns, I’ve never seen it equal less crime.”
Presumably, Rallings has never read the book “More Guns, Less Crime” by economist John Lott Jr. If he had, Rallings would recognize that crime goes down across the board after a state passes a permissive shall-issue concealed carry law. When more responsible Americans carry firearms for self-defense, crime actually goes down — not up.
In addition to writing a tour de force on shall-issue laws, Lott has also studied the effects of constitutional carry laws. Before a Kentucky House Judiciary Committee last year that was also considering permitless carry, Lott made the following points based upon his research:
- For states that have had permitless carry for at least five years, all rates of violent crime are lower after its adoption than prior.
- For states that have had permitless carry for a shorter duration, approximately two years, murder rates, rape rates, aggravated assault rates tend to decline in a statistically significant manner. However, there is no statistically significant change in robbery rates or accidental gun deaths.
- Despite the fact that firearms training is no longer mandated, more people sign up for classes. Moreover, there are changes in the composition of the training as the classes tend to be more practically oriented.
- Perhaps most importantly, the segments of society most impacted by crime — poor folk and minorities — carry in larger numbers.
While Dr. Lott doesn’t say it specifically, that last takeaway may be the reason why crime rates decline following the passage of these laws. Because it’s harder for criminals to prey upon someone who has the tools and the willingness to fight back.
As many as 17 states have passed constitutional carry in recent years. Not one has descended into chaos as a result. Looking ahead, hopefully, Tennessee lawmakers and its governor will view HB 2817 as a priority for public safety and pass it into law. Because more guns, do in fact, equal less crime.