New state bill would equate handgun license holders with law enforcement

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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 bill is HB2554/SB2523, and it 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 are 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 is eight hours of firearms training qualifications,” Brown said.

“What if you had to be a sworn law enforcement officer to carry a firearm in a state courthouse. Will that extend to anyone with 8 hours of training and an Enhanced Transport Permit can carry a loaded firearm into 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 being able to carry a firearm or having certain types of ammunition in private places that have the legal right to prohibit unloaded officers of law enforcement to wear,” Brown said. “The law gives lawmakers 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 who can go through 8 hours of training and get a license and not have to train again,” 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 off-duty law enforcement officers or whoever who had an 8-hour 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 citizen groups on crime, they might have other ideas,” Brown said. “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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