Thanks to our forward-thinking Republican legislators in Tennessee, we now are members of the Permitless Carry Club, where most adults 21 and older can now carry a loaded handgun on their person, openly or concealed, without having to possess a permit.
And now, in their infinite wisdom, the Tennessee House of Representatives has passed a bill that would allow 18-year-olds to purchase handguns without a license or any required training.
A few months ago, Gov. Bill Lee signed Tennessee’s constitutional carry law allowing most adults to carry a handgun, openly or concealed, without a permit.
“I signed constitutional carry today because it shouldn’t be hard for law-abiding Tennesseans to exercise their (Second Amendment) rights,” said Lee.
State Rep. Chris Todd (R-Jackson), the sponsor of the bill that would allow 18-year-old teenagers to purchase and carry guns, said gun “rights (are) provided by God first, and by our Constitution.”
According to Todd, requiring 18-year-olds to be trained and obtain permits is an “infringement” on their Second Amendment rights.
Because I’m an education columnist, I am sure you might be wondering what permit-less carry laws in Tennessee have to do with K-12 education.
Well, while K-12 education is mainly about the teaching and learning infrastructures in our school systems, it is also about the safety and security of our children and educators as they navigate the halls of our school buildings and playgrounds.
In any given year, there are thousands of 18-year-olds still walking the halls of high schools throughout Tennessee. It doesn’t take a PhD to understand how this new law could negatively impact safety issues in and around our schools.
Our political leaders are tearing down what few guard rails remain to keep our neighborhoods, schools and communities safe. You make handguns more accessible to teenagers, you automatically make our schools and neighborhoods less safe. Period!
And the current law, as it stands, in no way deprives people of their Second Amendment rights. But unfortunately, we keep opening pandora’s box, knowing full well what’s already inside.
The more guns we put in the hands of immature teenage adults, the more crime, assaults and killings we will see in our communities.
Our legislators know this. They’re not blind to the facts. But they continue to dismantle the few guard rails we have in place.
We all know that this has nothing to do with people’s Second Amendment rights but has everything to do with people’s orchestrated attempts to make certain communities even more unsafe and pad people’s pockets with gun lobby cash.
Guns are now the leading cause of death for children and teenagers in Tennessee (especially here in Memphis) and in the United States as a whole.
We see and hear about it in the news every single day, and we know what communities are affected the most by gun violence.
Laws that promote gun safety are not meant to infringe upon your rights to bear arms or protect your family. Instead, it is responsible legislation meant to protect our children and community, and not put guns (in this case) in the hands of irresponsible 18-year-old teenagers.
So, with gun violence on the rise across Tennessee and the nation, why are legislators pouring fuel on the fire instead of water?
Well, we know the answer; follow the money!
We know how powerful the gun lobby is in Tennessee and across America. Gun and ammunition sales are big moneymakers for the corporations who manufacture and sell them. They could care less about our children and their safety. As a result, the gun lobby has gained power and developed a stranglehold on legislators across Tennessee.
These compromised lawmakers refuse even to acknowledge we have a gun violence problem, much less work to solve it.
So now, in Tennessee, if this bill is signed into law, an 18-year-old teenager will be able to purchase a gun without a background check and carry a loaded handgun openly or concealed with no permit and no training.
This is an awful decision on the part of our legislators, and I hope they reconsider their plans to follow through with this.
This bill will not become law this year but will resurface again next year and be voted on by the Senate and moved on to the governor’s desk for his signature.
Given the construct of our legislature and the mindset of our governor, it is highly likely to pass and become law.
That, my friend, will be an incredibly sad day in Tennessee history.
(Follow TSD education columnist Curtis Weathers on Twitter (@curtisweathers); email: [email protected].)