TN Gun Bills Spark Concern Among Law Enforcement
JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. – Tennessee lawmakers are pushing ahead with bills HB1083 and SB0647, that would expand places where gun-permit holders can carry their weapons to include schools and state or local government buildings.
While supporters of the legislation say it would improve the ability of licensed gun owners to protect themselves, members of the state law enforcement community such as Chief Jack Cotrel, the public safety chief at East Tennessee State University, say it will make their job more difficult.
"How are my officers supposed to discern who the bad guy is and who's not the bad guy? he asks. "Because the way it is right now, if we go in a building after 'an active shooter' and we see someone with a gun, they're going down."
The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence gave Tennessee an "F" because of its expanded concealed-carry laws and a high rate of exporting guns to other states. According to state data from 2013, 405 people died in Tennessee as a result of assault by a firearm.
Mike McLively, a staff attorney at the law center says organizations such as theirs aren't trying to prevent gun owners from asserting their rights, but rather to ensure the safety of everyone.
"It's not about owning or not owning a gun," she said. "No one is saying, 'No one should own a gun,' but we are saying we should be smart and responsible about how we regulate gun ownership in this country."
Cotrel says while many gun owners believe if put in a dangerous situation, they could defend themselves or others with a firearm, it's not as easy as it seems.
"It takes more than four or five hours in a classroom to train someone to deal with a combat situation," he said. "There's a lot more to it than just shooting at a cardboard target."
Last year the Tennessee Assembly passed a law that allows full-time faculty and staff of universities and colleges in the state to carry handguns with proper permitting.