“The (permitless carry) bill (signed into law by Gov. Lee) has not done anything to increase the gun crimes in our state,” said House Speaker Cameron Sexton. (Screen capture)

During a Q&A session Tuesday with members of the Tennessee Press Association (TPA), House Speaker Cameron Sexton took issue with those who argue that the new “Constitutional Carry” law harms the effort in Shelby County to stem gun violence.

The push to heighten awareness about the need to stem gun violence returned advocates to Memphis streets last weekend, with some doubtful about the quality of support coming from the majority of state lawmakers. The New Tri-State Defender, a TPA member, questioned Sexton about those expressions of doubt during a conference call.

“This past weekend there was a Community Walk Against Gun Violence. During the event there were several references to the permitless carry measure and how it really wasn’t helping the effort in Shelby County to combat gun violence,” TSD Associate Publisher/Executive Editor Karanja A. Ajanaku said in setting up the question directed initially at Gov. Bill Lee, who had left the call before it was posed.

“If you had been there governor, what might you have said to help them see that bill/measure (now law) in a different light?”

Sexton then volunteered to answer the question.

“What I would say is that the gun violence we are having, for the most part, for gun crimes are not due to people who are purchasing guns legally, right? You do have gun violence from criminals who have laws on the books and they disregard the laws on the book.”

Sexton said the legislature passed permitless carry for people who are law-abiding Tennessee citizens and who can legally purchase a gun.

“What we did do … is in the bill … hold people who commit theft of guns, commit gun crimes or felons who are caught with guns, increase the punishment for (such offenses). I think it is a delicate balance of restricting law-abiding citizens’ constitutional rights when they are the ones not committing the criminal activities.”

Places with restrictive gun control have gun crimes higher than Tennessee, Sexton said, pointing out Chicago among them.

“The bill (signed into law by Lee) has not done anything to increase the gun crimes in our state,” Sexton said. 

“I think with the permit system that we had in place, I think with the way people were purchasing guns legally, I think allowing law-abiding citizens the right to carry – as the Constitution allows – is the right direction to go.”