As an increasing number of bills come before the House Civil Justice Subcommittee, two firearms bills, in particular, have a direct and broad impact on public colleges and universities in Tennessee. Both bills would have the effect of expanding the possession of firearms on public campuses to students. Public colleges and universities in Tennessee are not gun free zones, but UT—joined by law enforcement associations and other public colleges and universities from across the country— opposes efforts that would increase the prevalence of weapons on campus.
Open Carry for Students, Faculty, Staff
HB40, sponsored by Rep. Micah Van Huss (R-Jonesborough), would remove the requirement of a handgun carry permit in order to carry a firearm openly for anyone not expressly prohibited from owning a firearm. The bill would permit faculty, staff, and students to carry openly on public college campuses without a permit. Under the bill, handgun carry permits are only required to carry a concealed firearm.
Concealed Carry in Publicly Owned or Operated Buildings
HB363, sponsored by Rep. Jason Zachary (R-Knoxville), would authorize a handgun carry permit holder to carry a handgun into government-operated buildings (including public college campuses and public K-12 schools) unless there are metal detectors and armed security guards stationed at all public building entrances. The bill has a fiscal note that is estimated to exceed $1,000,000 in recurring state expenditures. Also according to the bill’s fiscal note, it could put the Departments of Education and Children’s Services out of compliance with federal regulations, potentially compromising more than $435,000,000 in federal funds. This will give pause to some fiscal conservatives.
UT is actively engaging lawmakers on these bills and will keep advocates informed of their status. The bills are in their first step of a lengthy legislative process before becoming state law. In the Senate, the Judiciary Committee is anticipated to take up a “Firearms Calendar” on March 21.