NASHVILLE, Tenn. (April 12, 2021) – Last week, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee signed a “constitutional carry” bill into law making it legal to carry a concealed firearm without a license, and foster an environment hostile to federal gun control in Tennessee.

Sen. Jack Johnson (R-Brentwood), along with four fellow Republicans, introduced Senate Bill 765 (SB765) on Feb. 9. Rep. William Lamberth (R-Portland) sponsored a companion bill (HB786) in the House. The new law allows adults 21 and older who can legally possess a firearm in the state to carry a handgun concealed or openly without a state-issued license. Members of the military 18 to 20 can also carry without a permit under the new law. The current licensing program will remain in effect for those wishing to carry concealed in states with reciprocity with Tennessee.

Despite intense opposition by law enforcement lobbyists, SB765 passed the Senate 23-9. The House approved the measure 64-29. With Gov. Lee’s signature, the new law will go into effect July 1.


While permitless carry bills do not directly affect federal gun control, the widespread passage of permitless conceal carry laws in states subtly undermines federal efforts to regulate guns. As we’ve seen with marijuana and industrial hemp, a federal regulation becomes ineffective when states ignore it and pass laws encouraging the prohibited activity anyway.

The federal government lacks the enforcement power necessary to maintain its ban, and people will willingly take on the small risk of federal sanctions if they know the state will not interfere. This increases when the state actively encourages “the market.”

Less restrictive state gun laws will likely have a similar impact on federal gun laws. It will make it that much more difficult for the feds to enforce any future federal gun control, and increase the likelihood that states with few limits will simply refuse to cooperate with federal enforcement efforts.

State actions such as passing SB765 will lower barriers for those wanting the option of defending themselves with firearms and encourages a “gun-friendly” environment that would make federal efforts to limit firearms that much more difficult.

Mike Maharrey

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