Editorial Roundup: Tennessee

Kingsport Times News. March 23, 2023.

Editorial: Permit-less carry may soon be granted to 18-year-olds

One problem with granting adult privileges to teenagers is that while you’re considered an adult in the U.S. at age 18, the brain doesn’t finish developing and maturing until the mid- to late 20s. And adolescence is lengthening, says Margie Meacham, who specializes in practical applications for neuroscience to enhance learning and performance.

That’s why 18-year-olds shouldn’t vote, drink or be made to go to war, much less legally walk the streets of Tennessee carrying a rifle, as soon may be the case. After Gov. Bill Lee led the charge to allow residents 21 and older to carry handguns in public without a permit, younger adults may have the same privilege, with or without the governor’s sign-off.

A gun rights group sued after the law was passed in 2021, arguing that the age limit should be lower. Then late last year, citing a U.S. Supreme Court ruling expanding gun rights, Tennessee Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti proposed a deal that would allow 18- to 20-year-olds to carry handguns publicly. A judge put the arrangement on hold for a 30-day period that recently ended.

What happens next is unclear, but a bill is moving through the legislature that would not only lower the public-carry age limit, but also expand permit-less carry to assault rifles and other long guns.

In its June 2022 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Americans have a right to carry firearms in public for self-defense. As part of that ruling, the justices said lower court judges reviewing state gun laws should only consider whether those statutes are consistent with the country’s “historical tradition of firearm regulation,” and not whether they enhance public safety or serve other public interests.

That leaves a cloudy image. Two months after the high court’s decision, a federal judge struck down a law in Texas barring those under 21 from carrying a handgun. In contrast, a federal circuit appeals court upheld a law in Florida that bars 18- to 20-year-olds from buying — but not possessing — guns.

Skrmetti’s proposed settlement concludes that Tennessee’s current age range violates the U.S. Constitution’s 2nd and 14th Amendments.

Republican lawmakers in Tennessee are considering lowering the age limit themselves so the attorney general’s proposal isn’t just mandated on them through the court system. Legislation to do so passed the House but not the Senate last year. Lee proposed the 21-and-up permit-less carry law. Now his administration is sending some mixed signals on dropping the age despite that doing so could cause some states to stop recognizing Tennessee’s carry permits.

Tennessee’s gun-friendly laws are on sound constitutional ground, despite that the state allows public carry without any training whatsoever, something this newspaper opposed. We believe anyone carrying a gun should not only be trained in how to use it, but in when to use it.

We side with law enforcement, which opposes the bill to allow 18-year-olds to not only openly carry handguns, but rifles. Top law enforcement officials say that would create public panic, erode progress in police de-escalation training, and put officers in dangerous situations. As well, someone bent on a mass casualty event could simply walk the streets with a rifle before opening fire.

“If we increase the number and types of firearms that are being carried, and potentially left unsecured, then we’re also opening up that opportunity for those guns to fall into the hands of the criminal element, which is where they have been falling,” said Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Director David Rausch.


Johnson City Press. March 23, 2023.

Editorial: You can’t modernize transportation with the same old solutions

After passage in the state Senate and a floor vote pending in the House, it appears Gov. Bill Lee’s pet project, the multi-billion-dollar Transportation Modernization Act, will soon become law.

According to the governor’s office, the new initiative will ease traffic congestion and generate highway funding by creating privately built and managed express toll lanes on certain interstates and by increasing registration fees for electric and hybrid vehicles.

The additional revenue and the focus on private toll lanes in larger cities will in theory help free up money and resources for pending road projects in the state’s rural areas.

There are absolutely roadway infrastructure needs that have been neglected in this state for far too long.

Our structurally deficient bridges number in the hundreds, and even with the last attempt to address infrastructure needs, the spending-boosting IMPROVE Act in 2017, our backlog of road projects has a price tag of $26 billion. We can’t keep up.

As evidenced by the failure of the IMPROVE Act and Tennessee’s ballooning population projections, trying to pave our way out of our looming traffic catastrophe will be futile.

New, pay-for-access express lanes may momentarily help ease congestion — especially for those who can afford to use them — but relying on them solely, without taking a holistic approach to solve our travel time issues, will only lead to another bottleneck on down the road.

Notably absent from the Transportation Modernization Act are modern solutions. There’s no mention of passenger rail, public transportation, managing peak demand for roadways and encouraging denser development.

The Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations is expected to provide details of a study of the potential for rail service in July, and the state hopes to nab some of the federal government’s available grant money for passenger rail development, but neither Lee nor the state Department of Transportation have been as enthusiastic about the prospect of mass transit as they have the pave-and-save plan.

Modern traffic problems require modern traffic solutions, and, until we take a turn from the same old strategy of chucking asphalt to fill the potholes in our transportation needs, we’ll be on the road to failure.