By David Tulis
Tennessee law has for decades reflected an ancient racial prejudice that effectively bans firearms in all circumstances except in your own home or business. The ban prevents the transportation of knives, clubs and firearms under any circumstances.
But it grants defenses to criminal accusations for those who carry a weapon. And the state operates a licensing system that reduces some of the pernicious effects of the general ban, allowing licensees to “wear” arms concealed on their persons.
The remedy has been bitterly fought by Democrats and dismissed by the Republican establishment that pretends to care about personal liberties and constitutional guarantees. The remedy would be an overturning of the “carrying a weapon with the intent to go armed” statute that was adapted to allow for arbitrary charges to be brought against disfavored groups and individuals.
“A person commits an offense who carries, with the intent to go armed, a firearm or a club,” (TCA 37-17-307). The next provision of state law gives “defenses to unlawful possession or carrying of a weapon.” These are scattered and incoherent. It is a defense if the rifle, shotgun or handgun is not concealed or unloaded and the weapon’s ammo “was not in the immediate vicinity of the person or weapon.” It’s a defense to a criminal charge that the weapon is at your place of residence or business, or “incident to lawful hunting, trapping, fishing, camping, sport shooting or other lawful activity” or that the owner is “engaged in the lawful protection of livestock from predatory animals.”
Other defenses apply to state actors — he’s a TVA officer, a judge, works in security (with a valid card).
No defense applies to one who has been convicted of a felony and “possesses” a weapon.
The mess of this law was reduced with the passage in 2014 of TCA 37-17-1313, allowing concealed carry permit holders to store their weapons in their vehicles. The statute says the weapon must be not in plain view and stored in a locked device secured to the vehicle. It is a confusing measure, narrowly written, and not applying to the average Joe who wants to keep a shotgun in the back floorboard but who does not have a handgun carry permit.
A real mess
A proposed “constitutional carry” bill is again being filed in the general assembly to reshape the state’s law and give the people a liberty from arbitrary and capricious criminal charges.
The statute allows for a judgment by a cop or trooper to put a citizen in harm’s way by arrest, charge and indictment. It allows for an arbitrary operation of state power against the citizens. The statute is plainly unconstitutional but has survived for decades because no appellant has pursued appeal sufficiently, mostly on account of not being able to pay lawyer fees. The constitution authorizes the state to “regulate the wearing” of arms, but that authority has morphed into the regulation of carrying, transporting and possessing arms.
The bill declares anyone 21 and older may carry any weapon, concealed or not, loaded or not. It also declares that a citizen’s carrying of a handgun “shall not constitute reasonable suspicion or probable cause to believe the person is violating any law, rule, or ordinance.” In other words, it bans cops from presuming a crime is occurring merely because the citizen has a firearm on his person or in his car passenger seat.
Eighty person of the three-page measure contains dull technical language about how language is deleted and replaced pursuant to the revision.
Vote-switch gag by GOP
“Why don’t we have open carry In Tennessee?” asks activist Mike Warner in Clarkesville.
“Ask Tennessee’s GOP super majority. It was killed in committee. Six members — two Democrats, four Republicans. Two Republicans voted FOR moving the bill from committee, The chairman and the other Republican voted with the Democrats and then changed their vote on the record from ‘NO’ to present not voting the next day. This is why 60 percent of Americans believe we need a new major party.”