A Year Of Missed Opportunities – Good Tennessee Bills Being Rejected Again

Photo Credit: Nick Youngson / CC

Published April 19, 2021

By John Harris [Tennessee Firearms Association] – 

Legislative committees are closing down. Soon, we will know what 2nd Amendment related issues are going to be enacted by the Republican super majority and which are not.  

Never, never forget that with the super majority, the failure to enact any legislation or the enactment of legislation. good or bad, is solely the act of the Legislature’s Republican caucuses.  

Incrementalism and half-steps may seem like progress but the fact that it is a half- step by a super majority is significant and must be noted for the 2022 election cycle. 


So, what happened last week and what is coming up this week? 
 
The Senate Judiciary committee failed to take up, much less move forward, on Senate Bill 318 (House Bill 18) which was a bill by Senator Joey Hensley and Rep. Bruce Griffey that would have come much closer to real constitutional carry than the Republican caucus did in the Governor’s bill.  

The Senate Judiciary deferred Senate Bill 318 to approximately February 2022.  

It is noteworthy that this bill had 30 House co-sponsors including Rep. William Lamberth who was the primary sponsor of the Governor’s bill.  

This bill had made it through the primary committees in the House and was placed “behind the budget” in the House which was not significant because the budget estimate on the bill was already covered by substantially the same budget estimate on the Governor’s bill. 
 
House Bill 446 (Senate Bill 557) was moved forward by the House Civil Justice Committee.  

Although titled the Tennessee Firearms Protection Act and referred to by some as a “sanctuary state” bill, this bill lacks any meaningful enforcement provisions and is otherwise substantially the same as a law enacted in 2015 that is also so weak that it has never been enforced.  

This bill could be amended (and TFA has offered language) to give it enforcement mechanisms against the Biden-Harris agenda but those amendments have not been added to the bill at this point. 
 
The Governor signed his landmark crime package which contained a provision that makes it an exception to the crime of carrying with intent to go armed if about 7 conditions are met.  

This is the Governor’s “permitless carry” bill and is sometimes referred to in the media and by the Governor as “constitutional carry”. It goes into effect July 1, 2021.   

While the bill may allow some individuals to carry under certain limited conditions and restrictions, it falls far short of real constitutional carry. For the time being and in light of the risks and ambiguities that are created by this legislation, most people would be better served by continuing to obtain the state’s enhanced handgun permit. 


House Bill 1160 (SB 1040) which would have attempted to eliminate the casual sale exception in Tennessee and would have required most private sales of firearms to be conducted through a licensed dealer was taken office notice in a House subcommittee. This is a bad bill (there are 2 versions of it) and all efforts need to be exercised to defeat this legislation. 
 
The Senate Judiciary killed Senate Bill 1333 (House Bill 899) which would have created a “civil rights” cause of action against government entities, mainly local governments like Nashville and Memphis, that infringed the 2nd Amendment rights of Tennesseans. 
 
Senate Bill 1335 (House Bill 928) is called the Tennessee Second Amendment Sanctuary Act.  

This bill could be amended to provide real enforcement protections against the Biden-Harris anti-2nd Amendment agenda and TFA has offered language for such an amendment.  

At present, the bill lacks meaningful enforcement provisions and if enacted would not materially improve the situation that exists based on laws already enacted several years ago which have never been enforced because they also lack enforcement provisions. 
 
Senate Bill 1391 (House Bill 1388) was perhaps the best chance this year to get to real constitutional carry. The House had moved the bill forward and its ready for consideration in the Finance subcommittee.  

However, when it was heard in the Senate Judiciary this week not a single Republican member of that committee made a motion to move it forward and the bill failed in the Senate Judiciary which is totally under the control of Republicans. 
 
What is set for hearings the week? 
 
As the linked report shows, there are several bills that are on calendar to be heard next week. Only a few are significant for 2nd Amendment issues. 

TFA-Bill-Status-Report-2021-04-16 

TFA-Calendar-Report-2021-04-16 

House Bill 928, the Tennessee Second Amendment Sanctuary Act, is set to be heard Monday night on the House floor.  

As written, its “form over substance” because substantially the same law was enacted in Tennessee in 2015 and has never been enforced.  

This bill lacks any meaningful enforcement mechanism or consequences for state or local agencies that violate the bill’s provisions. While it might “send a message”, it lacks consequences.  

TFA has authored amendment language and offered it but that amendment (nor any form of it) has been added to the bill at this point. 
 
Senate Bill 1148 is set for hearing in the Senate Judiciary on Tuesday. This bill has already passed the House by overwhelming numbers.  

It would prohibit the filing of civil actions related to self-defense cases until after the criminal investigations, if any, are concluded.

This is one of TFA’s top priorities to improve civil immunity.  

Please call the Senate Judiciary Members and Lt. Gov. Randy McNally to insist that this bill be pushed forward and enacted this year. 

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