New handgun permit available

Allen Maddox, owner of Allen’s Guns and Leather in Lenoir City, cleans a Thompson submachine gun.

A new handgun permit is available starting Jan. 1 for those looking to carry concealed.

Tennessee House Bill 1264 and Public Chapter No. 479 passed May 2 and signed May 24 by Gov. Bill Lee.

The Enhanced Handgun Carry Permit allows both open and concealed carry.

Tennessee residents who are U.S. citizens may apply for the new permit, and eligibility to obtain the permit requires applicants to apply in person, provide proof of identity and state residency by presenting a driver’s license or photo identification issued by Tennessee or another form of identification that showcases a person’s identity and residency.

A name-based background check will be performed every five years. The card will have an eight-year expiration date.

Within a year of applying for the permit, those seeking the concealed carry permit must also provide a photo copy of certificate of completion for a gun safety course or an affidavit from an instructor, school, club, organization or group that attests the completion of the course, according to the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security. Hunter safety courses approved by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency or a similar agency of another state, National Rifle Association training courses or law enforcement safety training are methods that are accepted for the concealed carry permit.

John McConnell, owner of Clarksville Guns & Archery, hosts one of the TDOSHS third-party vendor online courses for the concealed carry permit.

“I can only speak for my course because I don’t know about others, and the state has some guidelines that you need to cover ... we cover everything that we cover in the Enhanced Carry Permit class, the class you were taking before,” McConnell said. “All those same materials we make sure to cover because we feel like it’s important. We leave nothing out of that.”

The online course can be beneficial to those who work on weekends, when permit courses are typically held.

“The advantage is you can sit at home and do the course if you have 10 minutes here, 15 minutes there,” McConnell said. “You’re able to do that. A lot of people work on weekends or have children, and it’s hard to get in time to take an eight-hour class because most of those are offered on Saturdays. A lot of places can’t offer them in the evenings after work because it is an eight-hour class. It’s really convenient for that.”

McConnell believes a downside to the online aspect lacks in both classroom atmosphere and hands-on experience in the shooting range.

“The thing that you miss is maybe the classroom discussion that you get, the one with the instructor and the students in the class,” McConnell said. “You miss the instructor going down to the range and watching you shoot and qualifying on the target.

Damian Crawford, owner of Big Daddy’s Gun Store in Loudon, believes there is a benefit of those taking the course online who have limited time. However, he said there is a missed opportunity not learning how to shoot a handgun.

“Seeing a lot of the different people handle firearms and things, I have learned a lot about how much knowledge — people are lacking on firearms, so I think that aspect where you actually have some time with somebody to help you with your gun,” he said.

Crawford also worries about the value of reciprocity for the new concealed carry permit.

“Right now, to my understanding, (the concealed carry permit) has zero reciprocity, and reciprocity is where other states honor Tennessee’s gun carry permit,” he said.

Though the Enhanced Handgun Carry Permit training is more time consuming, Crawford believes the hard work required in the course is essential.

“I’ve been teaching the class now for roughly three years, and I’ve had people from many different states that are not very gun-friendly states,” Crawford said. “The Illinois, the Californias, the New Yorks, where they have worked very hard to get a gun carry permit for those states, and then they have 60 days once they move to Tennessee that Tennessee will honor their gun carry permit from the other state, but they have to obtain a Tennessee carry permit. A lot of times they’re frustrated. They’re like, ‘We lived in a state where it is so difficult to own or possess a firearm, and now you’re wanting us to go through this additional class,’ but for the most part, everybody after they’ve taken my class, they’re like, ‘Hey, you taught me something that I didn’t even know when I come from a state where guns are so scrutinized and it’s so hard to get this.’ I think the other class, the traditional, the Enhanced Gun Carry Class, the eight hours far outweighs — the value on it is so good.”

The concealed carry-only permit can be beneficial to those who want to carry inconspicuously.

“The good thing about a concealed carry is, of course, you would have the element of surprise,” Crawford said. “You don’t have to get involved if you choose to. You would not be targeted, whereas if you were the person that’s sitting there with an exposed firearm, the risk of something happening to you being the first person neutralizing the threat, that’s the thought no matter what you’re in, if you’re the criminal or you’re the police officer.”

For more information about the concealed carry permit, visit www.tn.gov.

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