A Republican Senator in the State’s legislature has proposed a “Red-Flag” bill that would allow for the confiscation of a person’s firearms without the ability of the accused person to be able to defend themselves against claims. Sen. Steven Dickerson (R- Nashville) has sponsored Senate Bill 1178, offering vague definitions and timeframes regarding the relations needed in order to file a complaint against a firearm owner that would result in that person’s firearms being confiscated. These complaints would be processed in an ex parte hearing where the accused would have almost no way to defend themselves.
This bill is not the only one being introduced that potentially affects the rights of gun owners in the Volunteer State. Sen. John Stevens (R-McKenzie) has championed a bill that would change the concealed carrying laws in the state. If Sen. Steven’s name sounds familiar, that is because he was the swing vote that killed now-congressmen Mark Green’s 2016 constitutional carry bill. Sen. Steven’s Senate Bill 705, marketed as a win for the second amendment, complicates the process of obtaining a carry permit and creates a second class of permit that can be obtained by taking an online course and paying a cheaper fee ($65 vs. $100). While at first, this bill appears to be a step in the right direction, it is in truth just adding more bureaucratic barriers to Tennesseans exercising their God-given rights and further complicating the already needlessly convoluted concealed carry permit process. The lower class of permit would have restrictions that the regular permit does not, including being concealed only, restricted locations, and no interstate reciprocation.
Instead of pushing legislation like Senate Bills 1178 and 705, Republicans in the legislature should be advancing bills like the concealed carry bills from Mark Green and Rep. Micah Van Hus. It is a shame that in a conservative state like Tennessee, with a Republican supermajority in both chambers of its legislature and a Republican Governor, that these are the bills that are making waves. No self-described “conservative” should be able to advocate and push for this kind of legislation without facing a backlash from their constituents. This is a symptom of a deeper problem festering within Tennessee politics, open primaries. By allowing non-Republicans to help chose the Republican candidates, it allows progressives and liberals to influence the platform and direction of the State in a way that is impossible in many of the states surrounding Tennessee. In order for Tennessee to pass much-needed legislation like constitutional carry, the root problem of open primary elections must be addressed.