Public safety bills target gang activity, gun crime

‘Tennessee law makes it too easy for criminals to get guns,’ Sen. Campbell says

Tennessee Senate Democrats
2 min readFeb 16, 2024

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NASHVILLE — Tennessee Sen. Heidi Campbell, D-Nashville, is introducing legislation to improve public safety by giving law enforcement new tools to crack down on gang activity and gun crimes.

“Tennessee law makes it too easy for criminals to get guns and there are no consequences for people who enable this criminal activity,” said Sen. Campbell. “These public safety proposals give police new tools to hold criminals accountable and keep illegal guns off the street while protecting the rights of responsible gun owners.”

Make straw purchases a felony

Straw purchasing — in which a purchaser is actually buying a gun on behalf of someone else — is a common practice among gun traffickers, such as gang members, and though it is illegal under federal law, there is no state statute prohibiting it.

Sen. Campbell’s bill would make it a class E felony to purchase a firearm for someone who is legally barred from possessing a gun.

According to Giffords Law Center, about a third of states have enacted laws to penalize purchasers who intend to traffic a gun. Passage of Senate Bill 2123, cosponsored by Rep. Caleb Hemmer, would add Tennessee to the list.

Sen. Campbell says this measure would give law enforcement and prosecutors a crucial tool to combat gang activity, disrupt illegal supply chains and dismantle infrastructure supporting gang-related violence.

Close ‘gun transfer’ loophole

Senate Bill 1654 would close a dangerous loophole being exploited by criminals.

Under current state law, it is a class A misdemeanor to sell or attempt to sell a firearm to a person known to be prohibited from possessing a firearm. But there is nothing in state law that prohibits a person from giving a firearm to a convicted felon or gang member.

Campbell’s bill, cosponsored by Rep. Bob Freeman, makes it a class A misdemeanor to knowingly give, lend, deliver or transfer a firearm to an individual who is known to be legally prohibited from possessing or owning a firearm.

“Tennessee isn’t ‘tough on crime’ unless our laws make it harder for criminals and gang members to get guns,” said Sen. Campbell. “These are anti-gang, public safety reforms that will help law enforcement do their jobs and shut down the pathways criminals use to get their hands on firearms.”

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Tennessee Senate Democrats

Fighting for everyday people in the Tennessee General Assembly