New bill looks to equate some handgun permits to law enforcement officers

Tennessee State Capitol
Tennessee State Capitol(Action News 5)
Published: Feb. 4, 2022 at 8:07 PM CST
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WSMV) - Tennessee legislature is considering a bill that will expand the definition of Law enforcement officers when it comes to certain firearm permit holders.

The bill is HB 2554/SB2523.

And the bill is raising eyebrows.

The bill introduced on Jan 3 reads as presented, expands the definition of “law enforcement officer” to include a person who has been issued an enhanced handgun carry permit; provided that the license is not suspended, revoked, or expired, for purposes of authority to carry a firearm under certain circumstances. - Amends TCA Title 39.

And experts say that could be a problem because enhanced handgun carry permit holders and Tennessee law enforcement officers have a significant difference in the hours of training.

“There’s a huge contrast between the number of hours of training,” said Melvin Brown, a retired Metro Police Lieutenant.

Brown says training is 8 hours for an enhanced handgun carry permit. He adds Officers and deputies get 12-24 weeks at the training academy and an additional 40 hours annually.

“And included in that 40 hours is 8 hours of firearms training qualifications,” Brown said.

“What if you have to be a sworn law enforcement officer to carry a firearm in a state courthouse. Is this going to expand it to where anyone with 8 hours of training and an enhanced carry permit can carry a loaded firearm into a state courthouse?” Brown said.

The bill would essentially amend a Tennessee Code that gives businesses the power to prohibit firearms in buildings.

“If I read it correctly, it’s expanding the definition as it relates to being able to carry a firearm or have certain types of ammunition in private places that have the legal right to prohibit non-law enforcement officers from carrying,” Brown said. “The law gives the legislature the right to let businesses prohibit non-law enforcement from being armed. But if law enforcement could be armed, but do we want that same privilege to go to anyone that can go through 8 hours of training and get a permit and not have to train anymore,” he added.

Brown says, and the lack of proper training could be visible intense situations in places where Handguns weren’t allowed if this bill passes

“If someone stands up in a theater and starts shooting, I’ll ask you, how many people do you want to stand up and start shooting back? One or two off-duty law enforcement officers or just anybody who had an 8-hour training permit,” Brown said.

The retired law enforcement officer said his advice to the bill’s sponsors is to talk to police departments, sheriff offices, and citizens groups.

“To hear both sides of the discussion because the state fraternal order of police, the police chief association of Tennessee, and sheriffs association, they may or may not all agree. And some citizens group about crime, they might have other ideas,” Brown said. “And if they merge all those ideas, they may come up with a bill that doesn’t do more harm than good, but without that input, we may very well end up with a final product that can do more harm than good,” he added.

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