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Permitless carry age lowered to 18 in Tennessee

MEMPHIS, Tenn. - There’s an important change to tell you about in Tennessee’s permitless carry law, and it’s a change that some local leader...

MEMPHIS, Tenn. - There’s an important change to tell you about in Tennessee’s permitless carry law, 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 having to take any training classes — no permit required.

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.

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.”

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.

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