Tennessee Legislature looking at firearms bills

The Tennessee House has passed a bill which, as amended by Republican Bill Dunn, allows law enforcement to “con scate” ammunition from a citizen’s handgun but perhaps only if the citizen does not have a handgun permit.

The bill passed the House with overwhelming Republican support on a vote of 70 to 20 with 2 present but not voting. It has not been heard in the Senate at this time.

On March 5, 2018, the Tennessee House heavily amended HB2586 to do something entirely different than what the original bill indicated it would do.

As amended by House Amendment 1 the bill by Rep. Micah Van Huss was entirely rewritten to provide that the punishment for rst offense carrying a handgun with intent to go armed (assuming the person is not entitled to the defense of having a handgun permit) shall be a “Class C misdemeanor, punishable only by a ne of two hundred fty dollars ($250).”

The legislation is a reduction from current law which provides that the ne is $500 but it is still a ve fold increase over what the ne was just a few years ago.

The bill as amended does not indicate whether, in addition to the ne, the court would also impose court costs, whether the ne can be paid without going to court and/or whether the court “shall” forfeit the weapon as required by Tennessee Code Annotated Section 39-17-1317.

Presumably, the intent of the legislation is that the “only” punishment for rst offense carrying of a handgun without a permit.

In contrast, under the bill as amended, a rst offense for carrying a longarm (a ri e or shotgun or a handgun with a barrel over 12 inches) or for carrying a “club” (which could be a walking stick for example) is a $500 ne, possibly 30 days in jail and weapon forfeiture.

The legislation also has a curious condition which provides that “when the violation involves the person’s carrying of the handgun at a place open to the public where one (1) or more persons were present, [the punishment] is a Class A misdemeanor.” Does this mean that a person who is absolutely alone on a public street, perhaps in their own neighborhood, who is carrying a gun while walking but without a permit would be charged with the Class A misdemeanor ($2500 ne, 11 months 29 days in jail, etc) rather than the $250 ne? The legislative debate did not seem to indicate how that provision would not apply in almost every instance where an of cer charges a citizen for illegally carrying a rearm because they have not paid the state for a permit.

When the bill was presented on the House Floor, Rep. Bill Dunn offered a curious amendment identi ed as Amendment 2.

In the oor discussion on this amendment, Rep. Dunn explained that he was concerned that if an of cer charged someone with carrying a gun without a permit that the of cer might be at risk of being shot if the of cer gives a loaded gun back to the person. So, Rep. Dunn argued for an amendment which the Republican caucus accepted that provides that the of cer “may con scate the ammunition from the handgun” even though the legislation makes clear that the of cer cannot “con scate” the handgun itself. Thus, the of cer is allowed to take possession of the rearm, unload it, risk an accidental discharge, and potentially leave a citizen unable to defend herself until returning home or buys more ammo.

The bill still has to move forward in the Senate where Senator Mark Green is the sponsor. At this point, the Senate bill has not been heard in the committee system nor has it been amended. It is therefore possible that bill could see additional amendments.

TFA urges you to read the legislation as passed by the House and how it impacts your 2nd Amendment protected rights.

Let your voice be heard and contact your legislators on this and other legislation. You can identify your legislators on this website tool