Tennessee plans to lower the age for carrying guns to 18

Two years after Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee filed charges allowing residents 21 and older to carry handguns in public without a permit, younger adults could soon have the same privilege, with or without the governor’s approval.

A gun rights group sued after the law passed in 2021, arguing that the age limit should be lower. Then, late last year, the state’s top attorney switched to brokering a settlement rather than defending the law, citing last year’s US Supreme Court ruling expanding gun rights. In January, Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti proposed a deal that would allow 18-20 year olds to carry handguns in public.

A judge has put the agreement on hold for a 30-day period ending on Friday. What happens then is unclear. Conflicting opinions about regulation within the state reflect a wider political divide in the US over who can own guns – a debate that rages on amid constant headlines about deadly mass shootings.


“It strikes me as somewhat unusual (for Tennessee) to settle at this point rather than wait for a decision,” said Andrew Willinger, executive director of the Duke Center for Firearms Law at Duke University Law School.

In its June 2022 decision, which followed a series of mass shootings, the US Supreme Court ruled that Americans have the right to carry firearms in public for self-defense. As part of that ruling, the judges said lower court judges reviewing state gun laws should only consider whether those laws are consistent with the country’s “historic tradition of firearms regulation,” not whether they improve public safety or other public ones serve interests. The standard has resulted in sometimes conflicting decisions as lower court judges struggle to figure out how to apply it.

Two months after the Supreme Court’s decision, a federal judge in Texas overturned a law that bans adults under 21 from carrying a handgun — and the attorney general dropped an appeal. In contrast, a federal appeals court upheld a Florida law that bans 18- to 20-year-olds from buying guns — but not owning them.

Skrmetti’s proposed settlement concludes that Tennessee’s current age range violates the 2nd and 14th amendments to the US Constitution.

“Restoring the rights of an entire community of people in Tennessee is a huge win for us,” said Bill Sack, chief legal officer of the Firearms Policy Coalition, when the agreement was struck in January. The coalition that filed the 2021 lawsuit is a national nonprofit that advocates for the right to bear arms in the United States

For their part, Republican lawmakers in Tennessee are considering lowering the age limit themselves so that the attorney general’s proposal isn’t just imposed on them by the court system. The corresponding legislation was passed by the House of Representatives last year, but not by the Senate.

Lee proposed the permitless carry law at age 21. Now his government is sending mixed signals about age reduction. The governor told reporters last month that he thought the current law was working well.

Tennessee’s Republican Gov. Bill Lee is spearheading efforts to significantly liberalize his state’s gun-carrying laws. (AP Photo/Mark Zaleski, file)

Two days earlier, his Department of Security lobbyist Elizabeth Stroecker told a Legislative Committee that lowering the age limit to 18 “is actually something we would be comfortable with” and something the Department is “working on through pending litigation.” However, during a legislative meeting last year, Stroeker raised concerns that lowering the carrying age could cause some states to no longer recognize Tennessee’s carrying permits. A spokesman for the security department declined to answer if this is still a concern.

Lee has also said he needs to speak to Skrmetti about the proposed court settlement. The governor’s office has since declined to say if he did so.

Former Attorney General Herbert Slatery had defended the law restricting unlawful carry to 21 years and older, but admitted in a filing last year that the Supreme Court case could affect the lawsuit.

Tennessee is the only state with a Supreme Court-appointed attorney general, an institution praised by proponents for creating independence from politics. However, critics argue that the position has become increasingly politicized.

Democratic Rep. John Ray Clemmons, a Nashville attorney, alleges that Skrmetti “failed his duty to zealously represent the state.”

“He essentially took office and then proceeded to turn around and wave a white flag on a lawsuit that essentially allows a radical gun group to rewrite state laws from the judiciary,” Clemmons said.

Tennessee aims to pass gun-friendly laws. Gun owners applying for a permit must undergo training and get a background check — but the permits themselves became optional with the 2021 law. In addition, 18 to 20-year-olds can already own handguns, but as a rule they are not allowed to carry them in public – with or without permission. However, young adults with a military background are allowed to do so.


Meanwhile, public housing companies in Tennessee cannot enter into leases that prevent tenants from having guns in their homes, according to a state appeals committee decision last year, which was also influenced by the Supreme Court decision. Gun rights advocates have also sued to block restrictions on people carrying guns in public parks, recreation centers and similar places.

While Skrmetti’s court settlement remains in abeyance, a bill is moving through the legislature that would not only lower the age limit for public carry, but also expand illicit carry to include assault rifles and other long guns.

Senior law enforcement officials oppose the change, saying it will spark public panic, undermine advances in police de-escalation training and put officers in dangerous situations.


“As we increase the number and types of firearms carried and potentially left unsecured, we also open up the opportunity for those guns to fall into the hands of the criminal element where they fell. said Tennessee Bureau of Investigation director David Rausch.

Source : www.foxnews.com

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