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Tennessee expected to soon have a law allowing most to carry a firearm without a permit

The bill would allow most people to carry a handgun openly or concealed without a permit.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Tennessee lawmakers are quickly moving on a bill that would let most people carry a firearm, openly or concealed, without a permit. 

As written, the bill is simple. You could legally possess a firearm and have the same protections as someone with a permit. 

If passed, the only people who would not qualify include those convicted of a felony, stalking, driving under the influence, and anyone who spent time in a mental institution. 

Governor Bill Lee is expected to sign it into law once it passes through the legislature, but gun safety advocates are worried this will lead to more violence and crime.

The "open carry" bill has law enforcement, especially MPD Director Michael Rallings, worried about its repercussions.

"I think permitless carry is bad for Memphis," Rallings said. "I don’t see how it is such a great thing for the state of Tennessee when the state of Tennessee leads the nation in violence, you know one of the top three, in violence." 

Rallings' claim about Tennessee leading in violence is true. The Safe Tennessee Project reported Tennessee is the third most dangerous state, according to FBI data. 

Retired Shelby County Sheriff's Captain Bennie Cobb, who now teaches gun safety, believes the training required for a permit helps people be more responsible and fears without it there will be more gun deaths. 

"The citizens, the law enforcement officials in the state of Tennessee are certainly going to have a concern because now not only do you have people walking around with guns, but you also have untrained people walking around with guns," Cobb said. 

He added the law would make it harder to tell when a gun is in the wrong hands. 

"Now instead of trying to walk around with it concealed or hiding from the police, you’re walking around with it in plain view of the citizens and the police," Cobb said. "The police have very limited ability to question you about it unless you are committing another crime."

However, supporters of the potential law disagree. They claim more legal gun freedoms will make us safer, adding the bill would increase penalties for gun-related crimes. 

Cobb is unconvinced. 

"An unconcealed gun or open carry weapon is an alert to the police officer, it’s a fear to the citizens," Cobb said. "Memphis and Tennessee are getting ready to see a new day."