Tennessee lawmakers send 'permitless' handgun-carry bill to Gov. Lee

Tennessee House of Representatives / Photo by John Partipilo

NASHVILLE - A bill allowing Tennesseans to publicly carry a handgun without a state-issued license and with no required firearms training or criminal background checks won final approval in the House Monday night following spirited debate.

The "permitless carry" bill was brought by Republican Gov. Bill Lee, who is expected to sign it. Previously passed by the Senate, it was approved in the House on a 64-29 vote.

Senate Bill 765 extends the state's existing concealed-carry law to open carry of handguns, unlike current law which says they must be concealed. The new bill applies to people 21 and older while allowing military service members ages 18 to 20 to carry as well.

Critics charged the bill goes too far, while some gun-rights advocates, including the Tennessee Firearms Association, have argued Lee's bill - which was backed by the National Rifle Association - doesn't go far enough because, among other things, it excludes long guns.