Does Tennessee need a 2nd permitting system?

Quite simply, no. What it needs are promises kept.

There is a bill by Sen. John Stevens and Rep. Andy Holt (SB705 and HB1264) which was filed to create a second type of civilian handgun permit in Tennessee.  This proposed new permit is a “concealed only” permit.  The existing permit, which will continue to exist, does not have a concealment requirement.  So, if this bill passes there will be two permits, two different application processes, potentially two different fee structures and the permits will not be the same in terms of scope of exceptions relative to “gun free zones”.

As initially filed (it has already been completely rewritten), the proposed legislation would have renamed the existing permits to call them “enhanced handgun carry permits”.  The legislation did not however add any enhancements to the permit, it just called them “enhanced” when there was no real need to do so since presumably the proposed new permit will be clearly designated as a “concealed only permit”.

As initially filed, the proposed new “concealed permit” would require that the applicant apply “in person” to the Department of Safety for the permit.  The individual would have to provide proof of residency in Tennessee and a photo identification.  The individual would have to meet all the qualifications of the existing permit, with a few minor differences.  Rather than the required 8 hour training course of classroom and range instruction, the applicant for the concealed permit would have to show some evidence of “competency” such as proof of completing the hunter safety course, any NRA firearms course, any law enforcement or military course completion, having a license from another state, or other evidence such as completing an “electronic, video or online course” that may be offered by approved instructors.

As initially filed, another difference would be that the Department of Safety would run a computerized records check on the applicant.  If all these steps are met, the Department of Safety would issue a 5 year concealed only permit which may be on a “letter” as opposed to a card.  Significantly, the state would not be allowed to charge a fee for this concealed only permit.  This “no fee” provision was perhaps in line with one of Bill Lee’s comments during the campaign that he did not think Tennesseans should have to pay for the handgun permits.

Then the first fiscal estimate (dated February 20, 2019) came out on the proposed new concealed only permit.  That fiscal estimate by legislative staffers revealed that it would cost the taxpayers about $1 million per year to give free concealed only permits to the applicants.  Yes, 2nd Amendment rights as they would exist under socialism – you have a right or license that is paid for by the taxpayers.

Almost as soon as the bills were actually put on notice, the sponsors completely deleted the original language of the bills and substituted all new language perhaps to appease some of the objectors or perhaps for some other reason.

The current House and Senate amendments are not exactly the same but they are pretty close.  The Senate amendment is the most recent so it will be used for this discussion.

What changed in the amendment?  Plenty.

The amended bill still creates the lofty name of “enhanced handgun carry permit” for the 600,000+ existing permits.  It still creates a concealed only permit as the new, 2nd generation permit.  The training requirements have changed for the concealed only permit but the requirements still appear to allow things such as hunter safety and most other existing firearms training courses.  New additions are the requirement for 2 full sets of fingerprints – just like the existing permit.  A copy of application has to be sent to the sheriff – just like the existing permit. The TBI is now required to do a full fingerprint based background check – just like as for the existing permits.  Oh, an the concealed permits will have an application fee of $65 dollars for an 8 year permit – sort of like the existing permit.  There is no lifetime permit option – unlike the existing permit.

So, it appears that the Legislature is proposing a 2nd class or reduced feature concealed only permit which will have almost the same application requirements as the current permit, the training is slightly different, you still have to go somewhere to be fingerprinted, and the application fee is a whopping $35 less for an 8 year permit (a saving of $4.38 per year!!!)

Of concern, the amended bill does not define “concealed” so it would be possible that an incidental viewing of a holster weapon under a vest or jacket could result in an arrest on a charge of illegal carrying a firearm.  Also, there are some “gun free zones” where only the enhanced handgun carry permit would be an exception  but the concealed only permit would not be honored.

One should wonder is the Legislature doing?  What are they trying to fix?  Are they trying to create confusion or traps for citizens merely desiring to protect their families and exercise a right protected by the Constitution?

Well we know a few things they are not trying to do.  One is abide by the Constitution which many believe under the “shall not be infringed” clause prohibits the state from conditioning the exercise of a constitutional right on paying a fee and complying with numerous requirements.

At least 16 states have enacted constitutional carry laws which do not require fees, background checks or state approved training to exercise a constitutionally protected right.  Four states that touch Tennessee have already done this (Arkansas, Kentucky, Mississippi and Missouri) and both Alabama and South Carolina are likely to do so soon.

As many as 30 states (including every state that touches Tennessee except Georgia) do not require any kind of permit for “open carry” of firearms.

Clearly the trend nationally is toward constitutional carry.  Except in Tennessee.  But the question is why?  What is wrong with Tennessee and its super majority of Republicans in the Legislature?

One thing that is clear and potentially desirable is that this bill has a broad caption.  That means it could be amended to do anything that falls under the scope of that broad caption.  It could for example, be amended to adopt Constitutional carry with an optional permit (for reciprocity) as approximately 1/3 of the other states have already done.

Adopting constitutional carry would not only be following the constitution but it would also be fulfilling a lot of campaign promises from people like — Bill Lee.

What can you do?

First, call and contact the bill sponsors and ask them a) what are they trying to do with this bill and b) will they agree to amend it to adopt constitutional carry and retain the existing permit system as optional.  Be polite.  They might be on our side and they might be willing to make Tennessee the 17th Constitutional Carry state but they may need to know its what we want.

Senator John Stevens —

425 5th Avenue North
Suite 710 Cordell Hull Bldg.
Nashville, TN 37243
Phone: (615) 741-4576
Fax: (615) 253-0161

District Address
161 Court Square
Huntingdon, TN 38344
(731) 986-9742


Rep. Andy Holt —

425 5th Avenue North
Suite 642 Cordell Hull Bldg.
Nashville, TN 37243
Phone: (615) 741-7847
Fax: (615) 253-0293

District Address
461 Jewell Store Road
Dresden, TN 38225


Second, it is likely that unless you are a “constitutent” of these two sponsors that neither of them will actually take your call or return it.  So, it is critical that you ALSO call, fax and/or email (or all three) your own House and Senate members and demand that they do likewise. Youcan look up your individual legislators on the State’s “Find my Legislator” page.

Third, contact Bill Lee himself.  After all, he is the governor and he promised that he would support and sign constitutional carry legislation.  (we don’t have an email address or cell phone number for the governor but if you do please forward it to us and we will share it in the next important update).  Until then you may have to just call his office.

Gov. Bill Lee

State Capitol, 1st Floor
600 Dr. Martin L. King, Jr. Blvd.
Nashville, TN 37243
(615) 741-2001

If Tennesseans want to have their constitutionally protected rights removed from the shackles of tyranny, you are going to have to boldly let all these Republicans – many of whom campaigned as being strong supporters of the 2nd Amendment – know that its time to honor those promises.

John Harris

Executive Director

Joining and supporting TFA is an investment in the fight to restore our constitutional rights and to fight against politicians who are willing to sell their votes and your rights to whichever business interest gives them the most money!

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