Legislative Update from State Senator Joey Hensley: Legislation Enacted July 1st

senator joey hensley

   Second Amendment Rights / Stronger Penalties for Gun Theft — The General Assembly approved legislation during the 2021 legislative session allowing Tennesseans to exercise their constitutional right to carry firearms without a permit, while cracking down on criminals who steal guns or possess them illegally. The new law allows law-abiding citizens in Tennessee who are at least 21 years old or are honorably discharged or active in the U.S. Armed Forces, National Guard or Reserves to carry a firearm without a permit in a place where they are lawfully present.

   Those who carry without a permit must have no felony convictions, orders of protection in effect, pending charges or convictions for domestic violence or stalking, or have been adjudicated as a mental defective. In addition, individuals convicted of two DUI offenses within the last ten years or one in the last five years are not eligible, as well as federal prohibitions which include illegal aliens and fugitives from justice. 

   The legislation also increases penalties for firearm-related crime to promote public safety including:

•Increasing the penalty for theft of a firearm to a Class E felony;

•Providing a sentencing enhancement for theft of a firearm in a car;

•Increasing the minimum sentence for theft of a firearm from 30 days to 180 days; and

•Increasing the sentences for unlawful possession of a firearm by violent felons and felony drug offenders, possession of a handgun by a felon, and unlawfully providing a handgun to a juvenile or allowing a juvenile to possess a handgun.

   Tennessee will still retain its carry permitting process for gun owners who want to take advantage of reciprocity to carry in other states and for the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) exemption.

   Protecting Gun Owners – Similarly, a new law that I sponsored passed this year protects gun owners by preventing a state or local entity from creating a registry to keep record of who possesses firearms in Tennessee.  It defines “registry” as a record of possession or ownership by non-governmental individuals or entities and provides that violation of this measure would result in a Class E felony and a loss of funding from the state for the following fiscal year and any subsequent years that the violation occurs.

   Firearm Information Privacy Protection Act – A new law passed in 2021 protects the anonymity of citizens related to firearm ownership. It creates a Class E felony for any public personnel that intentionally discloses information about an owner of a firearm for the purpose of compiling a federal firearms registry or confiscation of firearms.

   In addition, the legislation creates a private right of action. The measure will act as a buffer between Tennessee and the federal government’s unconstitutional and invasive attempts to prohibit citizens from protecting one’s life, liberty and family.

   Safety of Firearms – Legislation incentivizing the safe storage of firearms was passed before the 2021 session adjourned.  The new law exempts sales taxes on gun safety devices and safes for one year beginning July 1, 2021. The legislation aims to encourage gun owners to create a safer environment for children and hopefully prevent the heartbreaking tragedies that might occur if a firearm is stored improperly.

   Hunting and Fishing Licenses – State lawmakers passed legislation benefitting those who purchase hunting and fishing licenses in Tennessee. The new law implements a true 365-day annual sport license to be issued by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA). 

   Previous law required that all annual sport licenses be issued for the year beginning March 1 and ending the last day of February of the following year. This legislation instead requires that all annual licenses and permits relating to wildlife expire 365 days following the date of issuance. The measure will help individuals purchasing a license for a particular season, like Dove season, which opens on September 1 from having their license expire only a few months later, rather than enjoying the full year before expiration.