If you don't live in Tennessee, here's why this is important to you: Legislation does not come out of a vacuum. 
T.REX Newsletter
Experimental Legislation

Time for a quick update on what is happening in the Tennessee Legislature! There are a lot of things happening around gun control and firearm freedom, though none of bills on the calendar are as extreme as those filed during last summer’s special session.

As you probably recall, there was a lot of deliberate grassroots effort from a lot of people last summer, and thanks to that effort, including work from you guys on this very email newsletter, we stopped a lot of gun control legislation cold last August.

As a result, there are more gun-control demonstrators on the Hill this spring than usual. Even though there isn’t the same volume of gun-related bills, there is still a lot of personal contention and noise, and some interesting legislation you can read more about below.

If you don't live in Tennessee, here's why this is important to you: Legislation does not come out of a vacuum. Occasionally there are bills inspired by the personal passions of individual representatives, but most legislation is spawned from political trends.

Many bills that we see filed here in Tennessee are based on other bills that have been tried in other states. Sometimes these new (or newly-rediscovered) trends are lightning rods and rallying points for other states. Constitutional Carry is a good example of this. In the year 2000 there was only one state that allowed constitutional carry, but in 2024 Louisiana will be the 28th and South Carolina is very likely to be the 29th state to allow it.

In other cases, new legislation is used as an experiment to see if ideas can fly under the radar and pass without notice. Other times it is created to test the limits of constitutional scrutiny. This is especially true in the post-Bruen world, where states that desire to have more control over their citizenry and more tools to disarm them are looking for new strategies that can survive a judicial challenge.

For those of you who DO live in Tennessee, this is your opportunity to show your representatives that certain bills are unpalatable to the constituents of the Tennessee. This not only protects you and your fellow Tennesseans from bad laws, but it also has an effect on the kinds of legislation that will be proposed in other places. Bills that cannot be passed in Red states, will likely not be tried in other Red states.

Here are the four best gun bills that the Tennessee Senate Judiciary Committee will be hearing TOMORROW (3/5/24) afternoon:

SB 0908 by Sen. Frank Niceley | HB 0994 by Rep. Kelly Keisling:

This decriminalizes victims of crime holding a criminal at gunpoint until police arrive. This fixes an odd loophole in the Tennessee criminal code, wherein you are allowed to use lethal force for self-defense, but are on the hook for other penalties if you manage to deescalate the situation and detain the attacker without firing your weapon. Creating a potential for citizens to be penalized for defusing a situation or making a citizen's arrest is obviously a problem.

SB 2180 by Sen. Dr. Joey Hensley | HB 1904 by Rep. Monti Fritts:

This bill decriminalizes the carry of firearms in optionally posted locations (does not include educational or judicial property) by removing the automatic criminal liability for permit holders who are carrying in these places.

SJR 0904 by Sen. John Stevens

This is an amendment to Article I, Section 26 of the Constitution of Tennessee to remove the provision that authorizes the legislature to regulate the wearing of arms with a view to prevent crime and to state that citizens have a right to keep, bear, and wear arms for their defense, and not just for common defense. It would delete the line “but the Legislature shall have power, by law, to regulate the wearing of arms with a view to prevent crime,” thus changing the language to simply "That the citizens of this State have a right to keep, bear, and wear arms."

SB 2516 by Sen. Frank Niceley | HB 2689 by Rep. Clay Doggett

Creates the opportunity for civil action against any person or government entity that infringes upon a person's right to bear arms (as defined by to Article I, Section 26 of the Tennessee Constitution), and requires the infringing person or entity to be liable for damages, attorney's fees, and court costs.

And here are the three worst gun bills that the Tennessee Senate Judiciary Committee will be hearing tomorrow afternoon:

SB 1731 by Sen. Page Walley | HB 2288 by Rep. Michael Hale

This is a well-intended but poorly-informed bill, which will create situations where a victim of a crime who inadvertently oversteps the narrow boundaries of permitted “display of a firearm” to prevent or end an attack MUST be convicted for a minimum prison sentence of five years. This is like Florida's 10-20-Life law, which ruined many innocent lives. Interestingly, it is the polar opposite of SB 0908, which allows the display of a firearm when making a citizen’s arrest.

SB 1927 by Sen. Raumesh Akbari | HB 2218 by Rep. Harold Love Jr.
SB 1695 by Sen. Jeff Yarbro | HB 1667 by Rep. Caleb Hemmer

These last two bills create a weird overlapping patchwork of new restrictions on firearm and ammunition storage… but only in certain jurisdictions, which will change based on population. One forces people to leave firearms in cars when entering certain Gun Free zones, and one of them criminalizes leaving a firearm in a vehicle. They both introduce confusion, and when combined, create strange traps where compliance may be impossible.

If you happen to be in Nashville tomorrow, feel free to drop by the Cordell Hull Building. You will see a lot of anti-gun activists and paid protestors, but you will also see how the Committee treats our firearm freedoms… and remember that this is an election year for local politicians as well as the national ones.