Bill proposed in Tennessee would allow gun owners to act as law enforcement

Despite calls for gun law reform and a child being killed by a stray bullet after writing to Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee about why he thought a law that allows most people over the age of 21 in Tennessee to carry a gun, concealed or openly, without any permit makes no sense, Tennessee has passed not one but two bills this month regarding guns.

Bill proposed in Tennessee would allow gun owners to act as law enforcement

Despite calls for gun law reform and a child being killed by a stray bullet after writing to Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee about why he thought a law that allows most people over the age of 21 in Tennessee to carry a gun, concealed or openly, without any permit makes no sense, Tennessee has passed not one but two bills this month regarding guns.

Two bills in the state Assembly and state Senate, HB 254 and SB 2523, aim to amend Tennessee law and designate "a person who has been issued an enhanced handgun carry permit" as a member of law enforcement.

"As introduced, expands the definition of 'law enforcement officer' to include a person who has been issued an enhanced handgun carry permit; provided, that the permit is not suspended, revoked, or expired, for purposes of authority to carry a firearm under certain circumstances," the summary for the bill reads on the Tennessee General Assembly website.

This has raised flags as it allows permit holders to carry a gun wherever police can carry one and act as law enforcement, to an extent. How they plan to do so or uphold “values and ethics” is not stated.

State Sen. Joey Hensley, who introduced SB 2523, told ABC News the legislation does not make gun holders police officers. And while that may be so, the issue is any adult can apply for an enhanced gun permit, which allows open and concealed carry. All the applicant needs to do is go through an eight-hour handgun safety course and pay a $100 fee.

"This is trying to open it up so that people who go to the extreme to get this extra permit can have the right to defend themselves in more places," Hensley told ABC News Thursday.

Many have expressed their opposition to the bill, including the Tennessee State Lodge for the Fraternal Order of Police, which said that civilians are not versed in “criminal law, defense tactics” the way police officers are to be able to carry in such a way.

"These vigorous standards are in place to ensure officers are familiar with their weapons," Scottie DeLashmit, the president of Tennessee State Lodge for the Fraternal Order of Police, said in a statement. "The enhanced handgun carry permit training is far less demanding than anything required from a cadet attending a basic law enforcement academy."

According to the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security—which issues the permits—there are currently 686,348 active enhanced handgun carry permit holders in the state.

A hearing has not yet been set for the bills but they already getting pushback from police unions and gun control advocates who believe they will lead to more gun violence. With the number of racists and white supremacists in the state, that is a given. Such a bill is expected to only increase the “self-defense” excuse many racists and xenophobes use after assaulting people of color.

"I don't understand our regression to the old West, because this is what it feels like," Jonathan Gold, a Michigan-based firearms instructor and member of the non-profit Giffords Gun Owners for Safety, told ABC News. "I've studied the old West, and I don't think anyone wants to go back to the murder rate of Tombstone."