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Editorial: Bills on guns, abortion, slavery await legislators

Editorial Board • Jun 2, 2020 at 9:00 PM

Tennessee’s General Assembly is back in session with 99 House members and 33 senators facing such bills as an attempt to ban most abortions, a permitless concealed carry handgun bill that would allow Tennesseans to go armed without background checks, and three state constitutional amendments, including one banning slavery.

It’s not that the state’s constitution supports slavery, but some unfortunate wording in a provision dealing with prison inmates: “slavery and involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime, whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, are forever prohibited in this state.”

That wording suggests that slavery is acceptable as a punishment for crime. The proposed corrective language is: “Slavery and involuntary servitude are forever prohibited. Nothing in this section shall prohibit an inmate from working when the inmate has been duly convicted of a crime.” We feel certain lawmakers will be of like mind in support this constitutional change.

Legislation would allow for both open and concealed carrying of handguns for residents 21 and older without a permit. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation opposes it, and we agree that allowing anyone to buy a handgun, load it and walk around without training, and especially without a background check, is dangerous. Get training and pass a background check, and we’re fine with concealed carry. But there needs to be at the very least minimal checks and balances.

If any state resident wants to carry a concealed weapon, Tennessee has a process that allows it provided you don’t pose a threat to the public through criminal activity or mental illness. It creates a serious public threat to bypass that process and allow anyone to purchase and carry a weapon.

Public safety demands the state require applicants for this privilege to pass a criminal background check, complete safety training, and complete live-fire shooting exercises. You should understand how to use a weapon before you point it at someone. States must have authority to deny permits to people who pose a danger to the public. The current laws promote responsible gun ownership and public safety standards.

We don’t see the bill banning most abortions failing to pass in Tennessee. More often than not, arguments on abortions come down to religion and emotions, so we see this one as a slam dunk for supporters. Those in opposition should move on to another cause where they have a chance of winning.

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