NASHVILLE – Majority of Tennessee voters say they disapprove of a new law proposed by Gov. Bill Lee that allows most adults aged 21 and over to carry handguns in public without state permission , according to a poll released earlier this week.
Fifty-nine percent of 1,000 voters polled in the Vanderbilt University poll said they disapproved of the “constitutional carry” measure, while 39 percent said they approved of it.
The measure encountered less opposition among Lee’s Republican colleagues, with 41% of them opposing it, according to the survey.
Fifty-seven percent of Republicans said they supported the measure, as were eight percent of Democrats and 38% of independents. 92% of Democrats and 62% of Independents oppose it, according to data provided by Vanderbilt.
When asked if he was concerned about the potential political risks with the majority of Tennessees opposed to the law, Lee said, “I think we did the right thing for Tennessee, and the Tennessees will see it. And the data shows that as well, so that’s why we did this. “
The bill had been pushed unsuccessfully in the past. Lee said his administration has analyzed the problem and looked at how it works in 18 other states with similar policies.
“Public safety is very important to me as part of our public safety agenda,” the governor said.
Lee said that “the process of constitutional protection of these rights is also important to me, in particular and in a significant way to law-abiding citizens. This analysis and the culmination of it is why we have come up with this. And I’m glad we did. . “
Last week, Lee hosted a legislation signing ceremony at the facilities of arms manufacturer Beretta USA in Gallatin. He had already signed the bill on April 8.
Carol Frazier, a volunteer with the Tennessee chapter of Moms Demand Action, said in a statement that “this latest poll shows even more clearly just how out of touch Governor Lee and extremist lawmakers are to most Tennessees.”
Frazier said: “We don’t want unlicensed transportation, and seeing Governor Lee wasting taxpayer dollars and all of our time parading this bill at Beretta headquarters has proven once again who our governor is looking for. He would rather line the pockets of arms manufacturers than listen to his constituents. “
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Mike Bell R-Riceville, who brought the bill to the Senate, said the number of Tennessians supporting the bill “is actually higher than what I’ve seen. few years ago.
“I think more and more people are supporting unlicensed porting now because of the constant rhetoric against the Second Amendment coming from Washington, DC,” Bell added. If this continues, he said, “I think you will see support for this law continue to grow.”
Josh Clinton, professor of political science at Vanderbilt University and co-director of the poll, said he did not find the results surprising because he believed that “most people think that a license is such a low requirement that most find [it] irreproachable.
“It was a policy that was clearly driven by a few very connected interests and supporters of politics – a policy that really motivates only a subset of Republican primary voters. Most Republican voters, in general, don’t have not identified as a priority policy. “
Only 4% of the entire survey of 1,000 people rated “firearms” as a “top priority”. It was the lowest of the six options offered. The economy ranked No. 1 at 28%.
As to whether the opposition is a cause for concern, Clinton said, “It’s hard to see how that would be a handicap for Governor Lee for two reasons. First, our poll shows that they approve of the work he does despite this difference. of opinion. “
Second, Clinton said, the effects are “probably greatest among base Republican voters who are passionately in favor of unlicensed porterage. It is not clear those who disagree would vote against the governor. Lee on the question. Who would they vote for? “Moderate” Republican in a primary? I can’t imagine a Republican challenger with Lee’s approval. “
The survey found that 65% of voters approved of the work Lee, who took office in January 2019, is doing. Another 29% said they disapproved.
Further, Clinton said, “I don’t know which Democrat in the state has the name and the calling to challenge Lee, and I can’t imagine Republicans who disagree with Lee on the matter. vote for a Democrat given the importance of other issues. “
The law, Public Chapter 108, will come into force on July 1. Residents of Tennessee aged 21 and over will no longer be required to undergo criminal background checks, firearms training or demonstrate firearm proficiency, which they must now be done as part of the state’s existing licensing process.
But the law maintains the current authorization process. And supporters of the bill, gunsmiths and gun trainers are warning gun owners who may want to continue to obtain or renew their licenses. Among other things, unlicensed Tennesseans face a legal risk if they are armed in most other states.
The legislation was supported by the National Rifle Association. Some gun rights advocates, including the Tennessee Firearms Association, have accused of not going far enough. Several law enforcement groups opposed the law.
In April, the firearms rights group Firearms Policy Coalition of California filed a lawsuit against the law in Knoxville U.S. District Court. The group says the law illegally discriminates against residents between the ages of 18 and 20, prohibiting them from carrying a firearm unless they are serving or have served in the military and have been honorably released.
Contact Andy Sher at [email protected] or 615-255-0550. Follow on Twitter @ AndySher1.