Gov. Lee’s permitless gun carry bill endangers families, Democrats say

Bill passes Senate committee 7–2

NASHVILLE—Sen. Sara Kyle and Sen. Katrina Robinson defended Tuesday state laws that require background checks and gun safety training for people who want to carry firearms in public.

Gov. Bill Lee’s effort to eliminate gun permits would also repeal background checks and gun safety training requirements. The bill passed the Senate Judiciary Committee 7–2 on March 3.

“No family is made safer when people are allowed to carry guns around our families without a permit, without gun safety training and without background checks. Period,” Sen. Kyle said. “Evidence shows that when more untrained people go out armed, more accidental shootings will happen — and our families also have a right to not be shot by inexperienced and irresponsible people.”

During debate, the Republican sponsor of the bill said gun murders had not gone up in states that have adopted similarly lax rules on carrying firearms in public.

But statistics that focus solely on gun homicides miss the larger reality of gun violence, which also includes accidental gun shootings, gun suicides and aggravated assault, Sen. Robinson said.

“Our concern as Tennesseans is gun violence as a whole whether that’s suicide, accidental shootings or aggravated assault,” Sen. Robinson said. “In 2003, Alaska became the first state to enact permitless carry legislation. Aggravated assaults committed with a firearm have increased incrementally since the law went into effect. Since 2003, the rate of aggravated assaults committed with a firearm in the state increased by 82 percent by 2017.”

Similar increases of aggravated assault with a firearm have been seen in Arizona and St. Louis, Missouri.

And gun violence is already a serious public health issue in Tennessee. Based on the most recent fatal injury data from 2018, Tennessee ranks 11th for firearm mortality and third for youth firearm homicides.

The Safe Tennessee Project, a research nonprofit focused on gun violence prevention, reported to the committee that gun deaths in Tennessee have already increased in every single category from 2008 to 2018:

Firearm mortality — increased 15 percent
Firearm homicide — increased 41 percent
Firearm suicide — increased 2 percent
Youth firearm mortality (ages 0–19) — increased 102 percent
Youth firearm homicide (ages 0–19) — increased 106 percent
Youth firearm suicide (ages 0–19) — increased 127 percent

Click here to view the report on the Safe Tennessee website.

“It seems to me like we should be doing more ensure proper training and screening of those who want to carry guns so we don’t have to listen to another testimony like the mother we heard from today,” Sen. Robinson said.

In a jarring moment of the hearing, Shaundelle Brooks, mother of 21-year-old Akilah DaSilva who was slain at an Antioch Waffle House in 2018, testified against the bill to allow permitless gun carry. She told committee members that Illinois revoked the firearm privilege of her son’s killer, but, in Tennessee, the killer was allowed to have guns.

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Fighting for everyday people in the Tennessee General Assembly

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