After Tennessee Governor Bill Lee (R) signed HB0018 into law on April 8th, Republican lawmakers and the NRA considered it a win for 2nd Amendment rights in the state.
The bill removed the misdemeanor charge for carrying a handgun without a permit (with some exceptions).
The bill has garnered some criticism from gun-rights groups because it did not allow long guns to be carried publicly without a permit.
But few expected anyone to file a lawsuit about the bill, especially a staunch gun-rights group based in California, as reported by the Chattanooga Times Free Press.
The lawsuit filed by the Firearms Policy Coalition (FPC) alleges that the Tennessee bill does not provide equal protection of the law for those under the age of 21. The bill does remove the requirement of a permit to carry a gun, but only for those 21 and older. But the bill also gives an exception: those under 18 who are active military or honorably discharged from the military can also carry a weapon without a permit.
This is at the center of the lawsuit’s allegation. On behalf of three individuals in Tennessee, he FPC alleges that the law arbitrarily denies rights to 18, 19, and 20 year olds who were not in the military. This would violate the 14th Amendment Equal Protection clause in their view.
The lawsuit was filed in federal court on April 22nd. It makes the case that 18-20 year olds are considered adults in most other respects of public life. They can vote, join or be drafted to the military, and be prosecuted for crimes up to execution.
Therefore, they argue, they should be allowed to carry a handgun like the rest of the adult population of the state.
This lawsuit has raised some eyebrows from gun rights activists because it has the potential to strike down the recently passed Constitutional Carry bill signed by Gov. Lee. Because this bill does not have a “severability clause,” the whole bill would be struck down and thrown out if the FPC’s allegation are held up in court. To regain its status as law, a new bill would have to be proposed, debated, approved by both houses, and signed into law by the governor again.
Only time will tell if this lawsuit makes any headway, but the odds are slim and many Tennesseeans will get part of the 2nd Amendment right back once the Constitutional Carry bill takes effect on July 1st.