By John Harris [Tennessee Firearms Association] –
Last week the House of Representatives under Nancy Pelosi’s leadership passed a massive, sweeping and clearly unconstitutional set of bills as they attempted to leverage a political agenda on the back of the nation’s emotional response to the recent mass murder of innocent individuals in several different events.
Most Conservatives, gun owners and 2nd Amendment advocates agree that the unhinged celebration of the Democrats at the opportunity to infringe an actual constitutionally protected right that they despise is a danger that requires opposition. But, the Democrats’ efforts are not the only assault on your rights.
A common thread in many of these mass killings is that they occur over and over and over in what are or are perceived to be “soft targets” that are almost universally “gun free zones” that are created by local, state and federal governments. The data is clear that these mass murders and attempted murders typically either do not occur in areas where civilians are able to arm and defend themselves. Even if they do occur in such areas, as in the Texas church shooting where Jack Wilson was armed and intervened, frequently the quantity of death or injury to innocent individuals is much less than could have otherwise been the case.
Now, these shootings have occurred in Tennessee as well. They have occurred in the past and attempts at more are foreseeable to occur in the future. It is foreseeable that the likely venue of these future events, as past events have shown, will be in the gun free zones in Tennessee.
One part of the solution to the foreseeable threats to life in Tennessee requires that gun free zones be eliminated.
As of June 6, 2022, the Tennessee Department of Safety reports that 733,847 Tennesseans have either the enhanced or the concealed only handgun permits. Assuming a population of 7 million, that would be at least 10 percent of all Tennesseans (a much higher percentage would be reflected if we only considered the population eligible to own handguns). Plus, there are many more Tennesseans who can carry without a permit either as a result of their job requirements, by special authorizations, and/or even under the poorly written 2021 permitless carry law.
But it is not just an issue of how many can carry for self-defense. It is an issue of how many do.
Many who can carry for self-defense do not or are unarmed because of statutory and “posting” restrictions in Tennessee. That is, statutorily enabled “gun free zones”. These gun free zones disarm citizens who can and would carry in many areas and there contribute to the “shooting opportunities” that gun free zones create.
Public buildings, schools, civic centers, malls, movie theaters, restaurants, businesses, places of employment, parks, greenways, campgrounds, lakes, and rivers are all examples of gun free or potential gun free zones for individuals who can lawfully possess firearms.
Take parks and greenways for example. Tennessee has a law (TCA 39-17-1311) that makes it a crime for anyone to have a firearm in a public park, greenway, campground, etc. Although Tennessee adopted a permit law in 1994, that gun free zone remains today. Now, there is a “defense” (which you can present to a jury) that was enacted finally in 2008 to being in a park or on a greenway with a handgun but it is only available to those who have a permit.
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The problem is that the Republican controlled Tennessee Legislature has kept that public area gun free zone statute on the books since they got total control of state government in the November 2010 elections. Furthermore, it’s not an oversight!
When Bill Lee and the Republican controlled legislature enacted Lee’s “permitless carry” defense in 2021, they made sure to write it in a way that those who carried under that permitless carry defense would still be subject to criminal prosecution if they carried in a park, greenway, campground, etc.
The question that needs to be asked for these Republicans is “why are you intentionally putting our lives at risk in Tennessee?”
There is and should be great anger and resistance to the attacks on the rights protected by the 2nd Amendment in Congress and around the nation.
But that anger, a good part of it, should also be directed at many of those individuals who have held public office as Republicans in Tennessee since January 1, 2011 for they are the ones who are creating and perpetuating the gun free killing zones in Tennessee.