A new law in Tennessee was passed under the radar regarding loaded firearms in vehicles. Since July 1, if you possess a gun under state and federal law, it is within your rights to keep a handgun, shotgun or rifle in your car or truck, even if you don’t possess a state-issue handgun-carry permit, which was previously illegal, and only unloaded guns could have been kept in the vehicle, with ammo stored elsewhere.
Sen. Mike Bell says that it is “essentially an extension of the ‘castle doctrine,’ that you can defend your ‘castle,’ … your home, if you feel threatened.” Other proponents regard the measure as a move that puts commuters with no carry permits on equal grounds with those who do not have to commute, as well as being fair to hunters.
Bell also said that this was a logical move (backed by NRA), claiming that courts have recognized private property rights associated with your car.
Col. Tracy Trott of the Tennessee Highway Patrol has some reservations regarding these changes.
“I do have concerns as a law enforcement officer for guns to be more readily available in this business, but my concerns are not enough for the administration to ‘flag’ the bill,” said Trott.
Fred Fletcher, appointed the new Chattanooga police chief soon after the bill was passed voices his concerns: “This law will make it easier for people who are up to nefarious purposes to carry a gun, to go commit violence. That’s not a news blast to anybody. If people are allowed to carry guns they will carry them both for good and for ill.”
Rep. Jeremy Faison, R-Cosby, the bill’s House sponsor, states that “thugs will have a gun regardless…we have a constitutional right to have a gun. So if you’re good enough to buy one, that means you’ve had to have a background check. You ought to be good enough to at least get it in your car.”
Countering that, Tennessee Firearms Association Executive John Harris, thinks that the law “creates traps. It says if you legally possess a weapon and you legally are in possession of a vehicle, you can transport [the firearm] whether it’s a handgun, rifle or shotgun, loaded or unloaded.But,you can’t get it out; you can’t walk around with it.”
The lawmakers and senator Bell dismiss Harris, whose criticisms are routine for them. The senator agrees that law enforcement’s concerns exist, as some of his own family members are or were in the police force, however, he recalls the opposition to the 1990s handgun-carry permit law and says that the mass violence that was predicted never actually happened.
“I understand their perspective, but I also understand that citizens have a constitutional right to defend themselves,” said Bell.