NASHVILLE – Tennessee Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti is coming under criticism from some Democratic lawmakers for agreeing with a gun rights group in California on an order issued to the A pending federal court case in Knoxville says if the judge approves the state’s gun-carry laws, concealed-carry permits and “no permit” carry provisions will be extended to 18-, 19 – and 20-year-olds.
Current law excludes 18- to 20-year-olds from eligibility for the provision unless they have served in the military or have done so.
“This is another example of Tennessee’s attorney general making political decisions instead of legal ones,” House Democratic Caucus Chairman John Ray Clemmons, a Nashville attorney, said during an interview at his office. “Here we certainly have the Tennessee attorney general’s office waving the white flag in a case they have a duty to defend, instead of actually defending it with zeal.”
The order was issued last week before the US District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee, which was not approved by Judge Katherine A. Crytzer, who is leading the case, on Monday afternoon.
Skrmetti’s spokeswoman, Elizabeth Lane, said in an email that the state went with the agreed-upon order based on a broad decision by the US Supreme Court last year.
“The Supreme Court set precedent in the Second Amendment case New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen in June 2022,” Lane said in an email.
Building on earlier rulings, Supreme Court justices struck down a New York law that prevented someone from going armed in public without a high demand.
The Tennessee lawsuit was filed before the US Supreme Court’s decision and Skrmetti’s start as Tennessee’s attorney general. He was appointed Tennessee’s attorney general last year and will take office on September 1.
Before becoming attorney general, Skrmetti served as attorney general to Governor Bill Lee. Before that, the Harvard School-educated lawyer served as chief deputy attorney general for then-Attorney General Herbert Slatery.
The lawsuit was filed in April 2021 by the Firearms Policy Coalition Inc. represented by Knoxville plaintiffs Blake Beeler and Logan Ogle. It came after the GOP General Assembly passed the bill that Republican Gov. Bill Lee did not authorize. It allowed adults 21 and older to carry handguns illegally or carry them without a state permit or criminal background check. Tennessee’s current law in 2021 also allows 18 to 20-year-olds to carry if they serve in the military or have previously served.
After releasing an update on the agreed-upon order last week, officials from the Firearms Policy Coalition Inc. did not respond. at the request of the Chattanooga Times Free Press to discuss matters regarding the agreed order currently pending before Judge Crytzer.
According to the agreed order, “The Challenged Scheme regulates the possession and carrying of firearms which prohibits individuals aged 18 to 20 years of age from carrying firearms or obtaining a permit to carry them. over-age firearms only violates the Second and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution.”
If the agreed order is signed by a judge, people under the age of 21 can carry a gun regardless of whether they have served in the military or not.
Last week a lawyer for the Arms Policy Association, as well as Skrmetti himself, filed for the judge’s approval of the order.
In the order issued, Skrmetti’s attorneys and the plaintiffs cited the US Supreme Court’s landmark 6-3 decision in Bruen last year, which came after several shootings. in other states.
Chief Justice Clarence Thomas wrote that the decision was made by Americans who have historically had the right to carry firearms in public for self-defense.
The order issued states that Tennessee Commissioner of Safety and Public Safety, Jeff Long, has “strongly” enforced, administered or implemented the laws, and – to the extent that they exist – any applicable laws, policies, practices, customs and regulations governing the ownership and carrying of the material. firearms ban that prohibits 18- to 20-year-olds from carrying firearms or obtaining permits to carry firearms on their own.
Going forward, Long and his office and others working under his leadership will be “permanently prohibited” from implementing or enforcing this provision of the law.
Long’s office will begin processing improved gun permit applications no later than 90 days after the order begins, according to the agreed-upon schedule. .
John Harris, an attorney and executive director of the Tennessee Firearms Association, said in a telephone interview Monday that his view is not to allow carry provisions for the 18 to 20 years of age will be effective as soon as the judge approves the agreed order.
Sen. Jeff Yarbro, a Nashville attorney, said in an interview at the office last week, “I don’t know why we’re proposing that our laws are illegal.”
He also questioned Skrmetti’s plan to join Judge Thomas and other conservative judges “judicial” decisions and not argue to stop Tennessee’s ban on 18 to 20 year olds.
“Typically the attorney general’s job is to defend the laws passed by the General Assembly,” Yarbro said.
Some of Skrmetti’s first moves rankled a minority of Democrats in the General Assembly, with his comments about the creation of a special unit in the attorney general’s office to make claims against the federal government.
Unlike the other 46 states where the state’s attorney general is popular, Tennessee is appointed. The applicants come before the five-member Tennessee Supreme Court, which conducts public interviews with private individuals and attorneys before voting on who will be attorney general.
Skrmetti and two of his predecessors, Republican Slatery and Robert Cooper, a Democrat, previously served as governor.
Said Lt. Gov. Randy McNally, the speaker of the Senate Republican, in an interview in the office last week, his understanding of the problem of the provision that includes 18-, 19- and 20-year-olds led the states to form an agreement with the Firearms Policy Coalition. .
“We had an exception to that for employees,” McNally said. “And I think they went back and looked at the history and the state Constitution and realized that the … ban (on non-servicemen or veterans) is not going to survive in a fundamental challenge. At first, we thought it would be, but they found old, material things.”
Grand Master of the House William Lamberth, a Portland Republican who supported the 2021 adoption legislationwhich Harris said has limitations, saying he liked Skrmetti’s performance.
“I applaud the efforts of the Tennessee Attorney General to protect Second Amendment rights in our state, especially in the way the House chose to do last year when we passed a bill that doing almost exactly the same thing,” Lamberth said last week.
The bill did not honor the Senate.
Contact Andy Sher at firstname.lastname@example.org.