‘Have you lost your mind?’ Gun safety trainers blast Gov. Lee’s push for permitless carry

NASHVILLE — Firearms instructors and law enforcement professionals are warning the governor that his permitless gun carry bill will backfire.

Even though he campaigned against permitless carry in 2017, Gov. Bill Lee announced in February his personal support for allowing people to carry firearms in public without a permit, without a background check and without training.

Since then, gun safety trainers and law enforcements have had plenty to say:

“Have you lost your mind?”

“They don’t let you drive without getting a permit or privilege license. Why in the world would you let somebody arm themselves on the street without any kind of education on when they can or can’t defend themselves? When somebody sees that you’ve got a handgun permit with law enforcement, they know you’ve been vetted. I’m going to call Kevin Vaughn. I’m going to call Brian Kelsey. I’m going to call everybody in the world because I know those guys and tell them absolutely not. I want to say ‘have you lost your mind?’ I cannot fathom.” — Glen Turner, firearms instructor at Classic Arms of Cordova, Tenn. [Local Memphis 24, 3/2/2020]

“Why are they doing this? It makes no sense”

“I’m trying to be objective, but I can’t think of a reason. Why are they doing this? It makes no sense… A lot of people come through with a lack of — they really don’t know how the gun operates. They almost literally do not know which end the bullet comes out of… I can’t see how any law-enforcement officer would back this because you’re going to put more guns out there in more untrained hands. I’m an NRA member. I’m a lifetime NRA member. I’ve had guns for years. I believe in the 2nd Amendment and I believe in gun rights, but I also believe in public safety.” — Mark Haskins, retired police officer and safety trainer at Shooter’s Supply Indoor Range in Hixson [WRCB-TV, 3/4/2020]

“You’re going to allow people to endanger the public”

“If you want to endanger yourself in your own home, well that’s your right. But now, you’re going to allow people to endanger the public, and my wife, and my children. And that’s a problem.” — Will Dogan, who oversees gun safety training at Top Gun Memphis, said Lee’s initiative will endanger Tennesseans by making the educational component of gun ownership optional. [Commercial Appeal, 3/2/2020]

“I think it requires some sort of training in order to handle a firearm. With 25 years in the military, I understand that not everyone can pick up a weapon and fire it accurately.” — John Sharp of Jackson, Tenn. [WBBJ-TV, 2/22/2020]

“Yes, we have the right to do that, and if we want to, and we are legally bound where we can own a gun no convictions, things that would prohibit us from purchasing a gun, it’s great, but I also know that when I turned to be 16 years old my Dad didn’t say son here’s the car keys, go drive.” — Ronnie Dodd, Dodd & Associates Training Owner in Chattanooga. [WDEF, 2/27/2020]

“You can never, ever have enough knowledge when it comes to firearms. It’s not just that there are people who make their living with firearm training, it’s that you’re leaving it up to them [new gun owners] whether or not they are going to get training and do what they need to do. Don’t get me wrong, I’m 100 percent for the Second Amendment, but if people are going to take the time to carry a weapon, they need to take the time to educate themselves. We’ve got to think this through.” — James York, gun sales manager, says Gov. Lee’s permitless gun carry effort may affect the livelihoods of employees who train new gun owners. [Commercial Appeal, 3/2/2020]

“You don’t grow up, unless you grew up in the industry, you don’t grow up knowing how to operate one of those (a gun).” — Bob Allen, firearms instructor at Royal Range in Bellvue. [WSMV, 2/28/2020]

Law enforcement officials react

“We are Second Amendment proponents as well, but we’re cautious when it comes to public safety… We think that having some way of checking to approve a person is the best way to do that with guns. That’s where we stand philosophically.” —David Rausch, director of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation [Tennessean, 3/10/2020]

“I’m personally concerned about my officers on the street.” — Jeff Hughes, chief of Brentwood’s police department [Tennessean, 3/3/2020]

“I’m still against it (permitless carry). I think it’s necessary to have background checks and training … Guns are dangerous weapons. Definitely more people will have guns in their possession and that always presents a danger to any law enforcement officer. (The) Propensity for violence could be increased if more people have guns in those situations.“ — Former Tennessee Highway Patrol Col. Tracy Trott, who opposed permitless carry legislation in 2016 and reiterated his opposition to Gov. Lee’s bill. [Tennessean, 2/27/2020]

“Encouraging Tennesseans to arm themselves in public, without even requiring gun safety classes will result in a more dangerous environment for Tennessee families. Carrying a gun must come with responsibility.” — Glenn Funk, Davidson County district attorney [Tennessean, 2/27/2020]

“At a time when I have police officers stationed all across the interstates to ensure that our citizens and visitors can get to work, can take kids to school, the governor goes in a different direction… Our state representatives and leaders are ignoring the gun violence epidemic we have in our communities. And I’m not just talking about Memphis, it’s all across the state.“ — Michael Rallings, Memphis Police Department director, opposes the permitless gun carry legislation. [Local Memphis 24, 2/28/2020]

Memphis Police Director Michael Rallings says Gov. Bill Lee’s permitless gun carry legislation “makes it easier for people to go armed, easier for guns to fall in the hands of the wrong individuals.” “Passing a law to allow people to carry guns in cars was the foundation for a lot of the violence that we see today. We’ve seen catastrophic results from guns in cars. This (new) law would allow law-abiding citizens to carry guns, but it also allows individuals with nefarious intent to carry a gun. I predict if this will pass, you’ll see an increase in gun violence in Memphis and across the state. I am not against guns. I’m against illegal guns. I’m against our children being killed. I’m against our citizens being placed in jeopardy because of legislation.” [Memphis Police Dept. Facebook, 2/27/2020]

Fighting for everyday people in the Tennessee General Assembly