Dangerous “Carry Like a Cop” bill heads to the House Civil Justice Subcommittee


March 6, 2015

“Carry like a cop” bill will be presented to both House Civil Justice Subcommittee and Senate Judiciary Committee next week.

Bill would allow any handgun permit holder to carry a gun everywhere except a courthouse or school (unless they notify the principal).

Nashville – As part of what appears to be a firearms calendar next week, virtually all gun related bills will be heard in both the House Civil Justice Subcommittee and the Senate Judiciary Committee next week. Of particular note is HB320 (SB628 by *Bailey, *Briggs) dubbed the “carry like a cop bill.” This bill seeks to allow anyone with a handgun permit to carry firearms in the same manner as an off-duty law enforcement officer.

To obtain a handgun permit requires an 8 hour training class. Current Tennessee law (TCA 39-17-1350) states that the only places an off-duty law enforcement officer is prohibited from carrying a firearm are into a school (unless they notify a principal) or into a place where judicial proceedings are taking place. They are also not allowed to carry if they are consuming alcohol.

So, if this bill passes, a person with 8 hours of training would be able to legally take guns into:

  • Any church, synagogue, or other place of worship
  • Any bar or restaurant
  • Any hospital
  • Any privately owned business (regardless of their policies)
  • Schools (as long as they inform the administration that they are carrying before coming on school property)*
  • Bridgestone Arena, Ryman Auditorium, Titans Stadium, Neyland Stadium, FedEx Forum, Bristol Motor Speedway, and other similar places
  • Any music venue
  • Any shopping mall or store
  • Any family entertainment venue (Chuck E Cheese, Pump It Up, etc)

The permit holder could bring the gun into the establishment EVEN IF the business is posted as prohibiting firearms or weapons.

*Because the TCA mentions principals and school hours, it is unclear what, if any, disclosure requirements there are for college campuses.

“We are very concerned about any law that would allow guns into sensitive places,” said Beth Joslin Roth, Policy Director for The Safe Tennessee Project. “Ask anyone who works in the ER about why they have metal detectors. Emotions run high and guns could create unbelievable chaos in a high stress situation. And, have you ever been to a Titans football game where you didn’t see a fight? The idea that people could also have guns in these situations seems extraordinarily reckless to us.”

Business owners, especially those businesses that serve alcohol are concerned about this bill, as well. “We believe that guns and alcohol are an invitation for disaster,” explained Chris Cobb, Owner of Marathon Music Works, Exit/In, Hurry Back Bar, and William Collier’s Bar. “This bill would take away our ability as private business owners to keep guns out of our music venues and bars.” Cobb also takes issue to what allowing guns into his venues could do to his insurance premiums and his ability to keep his customers safe. “This takes away our ability to keep our customers, employees and security safe while adding greater liability and potential costs to our insurance policy. We invest in professional security guards and safety is a huge part of our business. This legislative overreach is unnecessary and burdensome to private business owners. We should be able to make decisions regarding whether to allow firearms into our business, not the legislature.”

The Safe Tennessee Project thinks it is wrong to equate handgun permit holders (who have undergone 8 hours of training) with law enforcement officers. According to details on the Nashville Gov website, Metro Nashville Police officers initially undergo 950 hours of training and then must complete 40 hours of in-service yearly. And, of course, law enforcement officers have on the job training. “Frankly, we think this bill is disrespectful to law enforcement officers,” said Roth. “We have been reaching out to law enforcement agencies across the state today and they agree. They are insulted. They spend far more than 8 hours on firearms training.” Captain Keith Stephens of the Metro Nashville Police Department shared with us today that their officers go through 120 hours of firearms training and that the areas covered include topics such as:

  • Pistol issuance – safety and home safety.
  • Shotgun issuance – safety and home safety
  • Gun retention and disarming
  • Room clearing / entry
  • Active killer response
  • Off-duty carry
  • Shoot and don’t shoot scenarios
  • Escalate and de-escalate scenarios
  • 80 hours on the gun range

We also know that handgun permit holders are capable of making mistakes in judgement. In fact, the sponsor of the 2009 “guns in bars” bill, Rep. Curry Todd, who argued that permit holders were responsible and could be trusted to not drink while carrying a gun, was arrested for DUI with a loaded gun in his car.

This bill takes the choice to manage their business away from private businesses owners and sets them up for tremendous liability and additional insurance costs. We implore citizens and business owners concerned about turning Tennessee into a “Guns Everywhere” state to contact their Representatives and Senators, Speaker Harwell, Speaker Ramsey, and Governor Haslam to tell them say no to these bills. The Civil Justice Subcommittee will meet at 3:00 CST on Wednesday March, 11 in HHR31. The Senate Judiciary Committee will meet at 3:30 CST on Tuesday March 10 in 12LP.


The Safe Tennessee Project is a non-partisan, volunteer based organization dedicated to addressing the epidemic of gun violence in Tennessee by building awareness about gun safety, outreach to the community, and effective policy advocacy. Follow us on Facebook and on Twitter @SafeTenn