Live from Music Row Wednesday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – host Leahy welcomed Tennessee State Representative (R) Clay Doggett to the newsmakers line to talk about constitutional carry legislation and suggested people should get involved in government through the local level.
Leahy: We are joined on our newsmaker line by our good friend state Representative Clay Doggett representing Giles County and part of Lawrence County. Welcome to The Tennessee Star Report State Representative Doggett.
Doggett: Hey, good morning. Thank you.
Leahy: Well, the Tennessee General Assembly is back in session. I guess you have some committee assignments there. Are you still the chair of the criminal justice subcommittee?
Doggett: Yes. Yes, sir I sure am.
Leahy: What are the big agenda items that you see for yourself and for the Tennessee General Assembly Clay?
Doggett: Today actually in our subcommittee we’ve got two versions of what they call constitutional carry coming through that’s going to be heard this evening at five o’clock and several other items on the agenda that some bills that last year were heard in the House that many of them passed through the committee process and ended up onto the floor and some were passed.
And because they were not taken up in the Senate due to COVID they are coming back again this year. So I think for the first couple of weeks what we’re seeing from my understanding is that a lot of these bills from last year are coming back up. A lot of things we saw last year again that is coming through. Some very good ideas some not so much. But that’s par for the course.
Cunningham: Clay what do you see as the possibilities for constitutional carry? What is it looking like?
Doggett: Well from all indications, there’s two and there may be two more out there. But as far as today what we’re hearing there is similar language. The governor’s package has some enhancements on criminal penalties for theft of firearms or felons in possession of firearms but it does remove permitting process for law-abiding citizens to be able to carry. Whereas now they have to have a permit to do so.
Both bills do away with the requirement to have a hanging carry permit. It doesn’t mean the permit system is going to go away. It’s still going to be needed for reciprocity with other states. Each bill has some differences in the language. One bill has some language in there that says that you’re able to go anywhere that someone who has the enhanced carry permit would be permitted to go. Parks and greenways and things like that. Whereas the other does not address that specific issue.
Cunningham: A number of states have already passed some version of constitutional carry have they not?
Doggett: Yes. From what I understand 20 states have done that so far. And two or three have done this already since January.
Leahy: Have you talked to our friends at the Tennessee Firearms Association and do they have one particular bill they favor over another?
Doggett: I have. I’ve spoken with them at length amongst other interested parties. But yes, Tennessee Firearms Association is watching the language very well. And they’re wanting to make sure that the liberties that we have as Tennesseans are met and that we have the protections under the Second Amendment of our United States Constitution as well as our state constitution.
They want to make sure this language gets right and I’m right there with them. I want to make sure that when we pass something that it’s going to be a very good bill and something that we can hang our hat on and say that you know the citizens of our state truly have constitutional carry.
Leahy: When do you expect that a constitutional carry bill will come for a vote in the subcommittee?
Doggett: Well, that’s going to be today.
Leahy: Oh it is going to be today and not just discussion?
Doggett: Right. It will be today. It will be voted on today. I think their numbers are 19 and 24 on the calendar if I’m correct. I may be wrong on that. But they are both calendared for this evening at 5 o’clock and there will be a vote here. We’re moving it in the House before the Senate moves it provided that both bills pass today and they will be taken up in the full committee next Wednesday. It’s a larger committee of course and so it’ll be in the pool for committee next week. And if they pass them they’ll go to finance and then should be on the floor within about three weeks.
Cunningham: Clay, you are a relatively new rep I think, aren’t you?
Doggett: I am! This is my third year in the general assembly.
Cunningham: Well, God bless you for stepping up. There are so many people out there that are concerned about the fate of the country, concerned about the direction of the country, and concerned about the election of Joe Biden and the Democrats controlling the Congress. And everybody’s saying what should I do? What should I do? How should I get involved? What is your best message for folks right now? How do they get involved? You clearly took the step to get involved at the state government level and God bless you for doing so. What should people be doing these days?
Doggett: Anytime that I can have an opportunity to speak to a group or just anyone when they ask this question I tell them to look. Look from your local level all the way up to your state level and get involved in your local governments and your city governments and your county governments because it’s imperative that we have people that are willing to take the oath and uphold our Constitution in those capacities because we need good people on the local level.
And we need them on the state level. And we sure need them at our national level of government. It is a big commitment, but I always encourage folks to get involved that way and if they can’t or maybe their life doesn’t allow them to do that at this time but to stay in contact with their elected representatives.
Cunningham: Well, I talked to a guy yesterday and he is from East Tennessee and he said that they had an opening in the local school board and nobody, none of the conservatives put their name up. And a local well-known far-left progressive activist was the only person running and just got in by default. And you just hear sad stories like that time and again. We’ve all got to step up if we’re going to save this American experiment.
Doggett: Absolutely. Absolutely.
Leahy: What do you think the odds are of the likelihood that some version of constitutional carry will pass in the Tennessee House this session?
Doggett: I think there’s a very high likelihood that that is going to happen. The governor last year made an announcement in a press conference that he was exploring this idea and then they had legislation drafted. And course COVID stopped it last year and then he comes out in his State of the State and he actually put money in his budget for this very idea for this year.
I think the governor is on board with it. And from what I understand the Senate is on board. And both Speakers, from what I understand are willing to let the legislature and the members that if they deem this is necessary to go forward. So I think there’s a very high probability that is going to pass and make it all the way through be signed in the law.
Leahy: So what’s interesting about this is most people I think would agree that there’s a good chance that there will be a version of constitutional carry that is passed by the Tennessee General Assembly and signed into law by Governor Lee. The next question is do you anticipate any litigation to challenge that law in court subsequently?
Doggett: I’m sure that there will be. Any time that you have something that people may look at as being controversial, there’s always some litigation. I would anticipate there might be some. If you go back and look at the permitting process when it was implemented many years ago I’m sure the same conversations were happening then that there would be some litigation. I haven’t heard of anyone yet saying that if this passes we’re going to court over this. I’m not going to hold my breath, but I would think that there probably would be some to come forward.
Leahy: Well State Representative Clay Doggett thanks so much for joining us today. And I know you’ve had a very busy day in session. Will you come and the studio sometime and chat in person?
Doggett: I would love to do that. That would be great.
Leahy: You got an open invitation. Thanks for joining us today.
Doggett: Thank you. Thank you so much.
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