Tenn. AG will not prosecute permitless carry in Tenn. for 18 and older

Published: Apr. 17, 2023 at 10:47 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - There’s an important change to tell you about with permitless carry in Tennessee. And it’s a change that some local leaders didn’t know about until Action News 5 reached out to them for comment.

In the Volunteer State, those ages 18 to 20 can now carry a handgun without a permit, and without fear of prosecution from the state attorney general’s office or citation by the Tennessee Highway Patrol.

Action News 5 talked with an attorney, a longtime Memphis journalist, an immigrant from East Africa who moved here in the 1980s, and a mother who is also a U.S. Military veteran, to get their takes on this latest change to Tennessee gun control.

As a mom to two-year-old Ivan and a retired member of the U.S. Army, Eboni Anderson does not think Tennesseans 18 to 20 years old should be able to carry a gun without having to get a permit.

”That makes absolutely no sense,” Anderson said, “I’m a veteran. And I know that you need to know how to clean a gun, properly load a magazine, how to properly carry, how to properly store it... things of that nature.”

Asmerom Gebremichaen moved here from Ethiopia in 1983. Memphis was much safer than it is today, he said, and he’s not a fan of lowering permitless carry to 18.

”That’s not good,” said Gebremichaen. “They are not smart enough. They have a long way to go.”

When Tennessee passed the permitless carry law in 2021, it applied only to those 21 and up or retired military aged 18 and up.

A California firearms group sued the state, saying it was unconstitutional not to give all 18 to 20-year-old Tennesseans the same right to bear arms without a permit.

Tennessee’s Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti agreed to settle the suit. That settlement was approved by the court on March 27 of this year.

As part of the settlement, the AG’s office agreed not to prosecute those ages 18 to 20 for carrying a handgun without having a permit. A spokesperson for the AG’s office told Action News 5 the Tennessee Highway Patrol has been instructed not to issue citations for those 18-20 who are found to have a gun that is not permitted.

“The United States Supreme Court’s decision in Bruen reminded us that the Second Amendment is a constitutional right, not a suggestion. That means it applies to every adult American. We can no more prohibit twenty-year-olds from legally carrying handguns than we can keep them from engaging in free speech or legal protest,” said Elizabeth Lane, press secretary with the Office of the Tennessee Attorney General.

The thought of 18-year-olds packing heat without any training doesn’t sit well with local attorney Lanier Fogg or longtime Memphis journalist John Branston.

”Particularly considering their lack of maturity, and particularly considering all the influences they have on their life. I just don’t think it’s a good idea,” said Fogg.

”I remember when it was hard to buy a beer at 18. Or pack of cigarettes. Not that I smoked, but I certainly tried to buy beer. Seems like they could enforce a handgun restriction,” Branston told Action News 5.

Anderson is left to wonder if local, state and federal leaders are allowing looser gun laws to keep communities safer, or to push them over the edge.

“It is the 16,17, 18 and 19-year-olds killing and doing the shooting, wreaking havoc,” said Anderson, “and the leaders are... just saying it... ‘Go ahead...leave it [guns] on a silver platter and go kill yourselves. We’re aware of this.’ I can only hope the younger generations are aware they’re giving us the guns because they want us to kill each other.”

When Action News 5 reached out to local leaders for comment, most were unaware the state had reached a settlement.

Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland had the following reaction when Action News 5 requested a comment:

“I am not familiar with the lawsuit referenced, but I oppose lowering the age of permitless carry of guns to 18. Each time regulations are loosened on guns it has resulted in a proliferation of them on our streets and more shootings in our neighborhoods.”

Shelby County Sheriff and Memphis mayoral candidate Floyd Bonner Jr. said:

“I continue to support the 2nd Amendment and law-abiding citizens’ rights to carry a handgun; however, I do not support the permitless carry law. With the court-approved settlement of the recent case involving permitless carry, I continue to encourage firearms training for our citizens who choose to carry and have a level of understanding about TN firearms laws. I urge all who choose to carry to know how to handle and operate a weapon safely.”

A spokesperson with the Shelby County District Attorney’s Office said:

“Our office will, of course, abide by the court order. However, it’s important to point out that the gun problem in urban areas like Memphis is far more severe than that in other parts of the state. I’m not sure this result was compelled by Supreme Court case law, but I respect the decision of the Attorney General and the court.”

Action News 5 reached out to Memphis police and Chief C.J. Davis for comment on Friday but has not heard back.

The Tennessee General Assembly debated bills in the House and Senate this session that would have changed the state law to lower permitless carry to age 18.

Sen. Brent Taylor, who sponsored SB1503, told Action News 5 he did not expect any action on his bill this legislative session but does expect it to return for the 2024 session.

“The Tennessee Attorney General has agreed in the settlement to not enforce the age restriction, which means no one age 18 to 21 will be prosecuted for purchasing or owning a firearm. SB1503 would codify the lawsuit settlement.”

Use the attached links to read the lawsuit and court order.

Click here to sign up for our newsletter!

Click here to report a spelling or grammar error. Please include the headline.