Currently, it’s a Class C misdemeanor to carry a handgun without a permit with the possibly of a fine up to $500 and imprisonment.
The amended bill, sponsored by Rep. Micah Van Huss, R-Jonesborough, would reduce the penalty to $250 for the first violation. The bill would also give officers discretion to confiscate ammunition from the gun if they feel necessary, but not necessarily take the gun.
Van Huss said he believed the legislation would help Tennesseans who are trying to protect their families, especially in light of recent tragedies. State Rep. Glen Casada, R-Franklin, agreed and said mass shootings are a “heart problem” and not a gun-control problem.
Opponents of the bill argued the legislation gives too much gray area for officers, it would counter the objective of making the state safer and comes at an ill-advised time.
“This bill is setting a poor example that this state is showing the nation at a pathetic time that we’re going down this path right after we’ve had these mass shootings in this country. We’re going to lessen the penalty for someone breaking the law,” said Rep. Bo Mitchell, D-Nashville, who said he believed the penalty should be raised.
Van Huss gave examples on the House floor of instances where armed citizens minimized or prevented mass shootings.
“The only way to stop a bad person with a gun is by a good person with a gun,” Van Huss said.
The legislation passed on a 72-20 vote. Rep. Clark Boyd, R-Lebanon, and Rep. Susan Lynn, R-Mt. Juliet, voted in favor of the measure.
The legislation has yet to be heard in the Senate.