Capitol Hill Update from State Representative David Byrd March 3, 2021

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   House Republican leadership this past week presented legislation making Tennessee the 19th state in the nation to enact a constitutional right to carry law. House Bill 786 upholds freedoms granted to law-abiding citizens in the U.S. Constitution while also stiffening penalties for criminals who steal or illegally possess firearms.

   This legislation includes several provisions that will make Tennessee communities safer by providing more severe punishments for firearm-related crime. House Bill 786 includes sentencing enhancements for theft of a firearm in a car, increases the minimum sentence for theft of a firearm from 30 to 180 days and increases unlawful possession of a firearm by violent felons and felony drug offenders. It also increases sentences for possession by a felon and unlawfully providing a handgun to a minor or allowing a minor to possess a firearm. 

   Currently, concealed carry permit holders have the right to carry a handgun, except in restricted areas. Law-abiding citizens without a carry permit may only carry a firearm in certain locations such as their home, car, or place of business. House Bill 786 would extend the constitutional right to carry a handgun without a permit to all law-abiding citizens 21 and older or 18 and older for active members of the military. Restricted areas include schools, colleges and universities, playgrounds, athletic events, government property signs posted prohibiting carry, places where judicial proceedings take place, parks, campgrounds and greenways. House Bill 786 moves to Criminal Justice Subcommittee for consideration on March 3. 

   In addition, Legislation protecting public roadways from mob violence began to move through the committee process this week in Nashville. House Bill 513 promotes law and order by increasing penalties for those who obstruct a roadway and creates new criminal offenses for those who participate in rioting.

   House Bill 513 increases the penalty for obstructing a highway or other passage way to a Class E felony with a mandatory fine of $3,000. Currently, the offense carries a maximum $500 fine. It creates criminal immunity for a driver who unintentionally causes injury or death to a person illegally obstructing a roadway.

   House Bill 513 also enhances penalties for violence committed during a riot. The bill defines a riot as a disturbance in a public place or penal institution involving three or more people who are participating in violent behavior, creating grave danger, substantial damage to property or serious bodily injury to others, obstructing law enforcement or a government function. 

   House Bill 513:

•Creates a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to 11 months and 29 days in jail and a fine of up to $2,500 for a person who throws an object at another with the intent of harming the other person during a riot.

•Creates a Class E felony punishable by one to six years in prison for a person who throws an object at another and causes bodily injury while participating in a riot.

•Creates a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to 11 months and 29 days in jail and a fine of up to $2,500 for a person participating in a riot who intentionally intimidates or harasses an individual in public who is not participating in a riot.

   House Bill 513 will be presented in the Criminal Justice Committee for a vote on March 3.

   As always, I am truly humbled and honored to be your voice on Capitol Hill. If there is ever any issue I can assist with, please reach out to my office by calling 615-741-2190 or emailing me at rep.david.byrd@capitol.tn.gov.