Independence Day is one of my favorite holidays. Aside from barbeques, fireworks and getting together with family and friends, it’s a day we take pride in our nation and reflect on what unites us as Americans.

Our nation began as a bold idea by our Founding Fathers, who sought to redefine the possibilities of a representative democracy free from tyranny. We would not be the greatest nation on Earth without their commitment to basic human rights such as freedom of speech, press and religion, protection from arbitrary search and seizures and fundamental fairness within our courts.

For more than two centuries, the Second Amendment has protected this nation from threats foreign and domestic. The Founding Fathers understood that the right to keep and bear arms was the most practical method of defending one’s self, family and property against those who want to cause harm.

They included it as a result of personal experiences with oppression and wanted to ensure future generations were well prepared to defend against such threats. The Second Amendment exists today because of the British Army’s attempt to seize the colonists’ firearms and ammunition in Concord, Mass. on April 18, 1775. Paul Revere famously set out to warn colonial militiamen who mobilized to intercept the Redcoats. The “shot heard around the world” and the battle that followed on April 19, 1775 signaled the beginning of the American Revolution.

The Founding Fathers understood there is no such thing as a free nation where the police and military are allowed to bear arms and citizens are not. The Second Amendment offers the absolute ability to live without fear.

This week, legislation passed by the General Assembly will restore Tennesseans’ constitutional right to self-defense when it becomes law on July 1.

I was proud to partner with Gov. Bill Lee in sponsoring this historic legislation. This law removes encroachments on law-abiding citizens who wish to exercise their Second Amendment right to carry a handgun while increasing penalties for criminals who steal guns or possess them illegally.

Tennesseans who are at least 21 years old, or are honorably discharged or active in the U.S. Armed Forces, National Guard or Reserves, will be able to carry a handgun without a permit in places where they are lawfully allowed. This legislation does not change any law concerning the purchase of a handgun.

Those who carry without a permit must have no felony convictions, orders of protection in effect, pending charges or convictions for domestic violence or stalking, or have been adjudicated as mentally defective. In addition, individuals convicted of two DUI offenses within the last 10 years or one in the last five years would not be eligible, as well as federal prohibitions which include illegal immigrants and fugitives from justice.

There will be no tolerance for those who possess guns illegally in Tennessee. The legislation increases penalties for firearm-related crimes to promote public safety. These include increased penalties for theft of a firearm to a Class E felony, sentencing enhancements for theft of a firearm in a car and increasing the minimum sentence for theft of a firearm from 30 to 180 days. We increased sentencing for unlawful possession by violent felons and felony drug offenders, possession of a handgun by a felon, and unlawfully providing a handgun to a juvenile.

Our nation was founded on the principles of freedom, liberty, and the rule of law. It’s important to revisit the story of our nation’s fight for independence so we continue to strive to live up to these ideals.

Shortly after taking office, President Joe Biden announced a plan to use his powers as chief executive to infringe upon the right to keep and bear arms. This is an egregious violation of his oath to uphold the U.S. Constitution. We must never forget that when we allow government to disarm law-abiding citizens, we make it easier for them to take other rights away as well.

As Americans, we have inherited a legacy of freedom granted by several generations of patriots who fought and died to preserve it. I pray we honor their sacrifice by always keeping the torch of freedom burning bright.

I hope you feel as fortunate as I do to live in greatest nation in the world on this Independence Day. God bless Tennessee and God bless the United States of America.

William Lamberth is the House Majority Leader for the 112th General Assembly. Lamberth lives in Portland and represents Tennessee House District 44, which includes part of Sumner County.

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