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Gun instructors, former officers voice concerns over Tennessee's push for permitless carry

Former officers and gun instructors said they have safety concerns regarding the bill, worrying about the risk of not requiring people to learn gun safety.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — It’s back for another round: a bill that would no longer require you to get a permit to open or conceal carry your gun in Tennessee has returned during the latest session of the General Assembly.

Gov. Bill Lee and other state lawmakers pushed a similar bill last year, but Lee tabled it at the start of the pandemic.

“We don’t have to have a permit for first amendment purposes or to worship in a church,” said John Harris, executive director of the Tennessee Firearms Association. “Regulating it or taxing it or taxing the capacity to exercise it is unconstitutional. It’s an infringement.”

RELATED: State lawmakers consider bill to allow Tennesseans to carry guns without permit

Harris says the bill pushed by Rep. Bruce Griffey and Sen. Joey Hensley is the right move and would relieve gun owners from the financial burden of paying for the permit and safety classes. Tennessee permits range from $65-$300. This does not include the cost of currently required safety classes and background checks. If passed, safety classes would also not be required.

Former officers and gun instructors tell FOX 17 News they have safety concerns regarding the bill. They worry people not being required to learn how to safely handle the gun will put lives at risk.

District Attorney General Glenn Funk says “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.”

Mom Jessie McKinney, agrees: "I want to make sure that, as a mom, when I’m in the store with my children next to me, I know that the person who is carrying a gun is doing so legally, they’ve gone through a background check and know how to properly use that weapon,” said McKinney.

FOX 17 News also reaching out to the bill sponsors who stand by their bill despite the criticism.

“How could It make things more dangerous. The criminals are not going to obey the law, if you have a weapon in your position, you have the ability to defend yourself or someone else and protect a life rather than perhaps being a victim, I don’t buy the argument it will make things more dangerous,” Rep. Griffey.

This bill has to clear committee before coming up for a vote. This is one of several gun bills being presented including one that would require gun safety classes in Tennessee schools.

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