NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) – The Tennessee Legislature is considering a bill that will expand the definition of law enforcement officers with respect to certain firearms license holders.
The invoice is HB 2554/SB2523, and that raises eyebrows.
The bill was introduced on January 3 and would expand the definition of “law enforcement officer” to include a person who has been issued an enhanced handgun license; provided that the license is not suspended, revoked or expired, for the purposes of authorization to carry a firearm in certain circumstances.
Experts say that could be a problem because there’s a huge difference between holders of enhanced handgun licenses and Tennessee law enforcement officers.
“There’s a huge contrast between the number of hours of training,” said Melvin Brown, a former Metropolitan Police lieutenant.
Brown says eight hours of training is required for an enhanced handgun license. Officers and deputies benefit from 12 to 24 weeks at the training academy and an additional 40 hours per year.
“And included in that 40 hours are eight hours of firearms training qualifications,” Brown said.
“And if you have to be a sworn law enforcement officer to carry a firearm in a state courthouse. Will that extend that to anyone with 8 hours of training and an enhanced carry permit can carry a loaded firearm in a state courthouse?” Brown said.
The bill would essentially change a Tennessee code that gives businesses the power to ban firearms in buildings.
“If I read it correctly, it expands the definition in terms of the ability to carry a firearm or have certain types of ammunition in private places that have the legal right to prohibit uncharged officers law enforcement to wear,” Brown said. “The law gives the legislature the right to let companies prohibit non-police law enforcement from being armed. But if law enforcement could be armed, but do we want the same privilege given to anyone can take 8 hours of training and get a license and no longer have to train,” he added.
Brown also thinks the lack of proper training could be visible during intense situations in places where handguns weren’t allowed, if this bill were passed.
“If someone gets up in a theater and starts shooting, I’m going to ask you how many people do you want to get up and start firing back? One or two law enforcement officers who are off duty or n anyone who’s had a training permit,” Brown said.
The retired law enforcement officer said his advice to sponsors of the bill is to talk to police departments, sheriff’s offices and citizens’ groups.
“To hear both sides of the discussion because the fraternal order of the state police, the Tennessee Police Chiefs Association and the Sheriffs Association, they may or may not all agree. And some citizens are banding together on crime, they might have other ideas,” Brown mentioned. “And if they merge all of these ideas, they can come up with a bill that does no more harm than good, but without that input, we could very well end up with an end product that may do more harm than good,” he added.
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