Handgun carry permit duration may double with reduced costs

Published 8:54 am Wednesday, March 16, 2016

The Tennessee House of Representatives voted to double the longevity of handgun carry permits and to reduce the application fee, but one second amendment rights advocate argues this is not enough.
In a voting margin of 85 to 7, the bill (House Bill 2575) passed Monday, increasing the duration of permits from four to eight years. The bill also reduces the application fees from $115 to $100.
The executive director of the Tennessee Firearms Association (TFA) is not satisfied, saying that it still allows citizens to be charged undue fees for a constitutional right.
“The Tennessee Firearms Association is glad to see that the Governor has apparently acknowledged after six years in office that his administration has been materially overcharging Tennesseans on the cost of obtaining a handgun carry permit,” said John Harris, executive director of the TFA, in a press release. “Tennesseans should not be charged at all for simply wanting to exercise a fundamental, constitutionally-protected right to carry a firearm for self-defense, and it’s probably a good sign when the government finally admits that it has been knowingly and substantially overcharging citizens for permits which the state requires before those citizens can even exercise their constitutionally protected second amendment rights.”
Harris advocates that the state legislature adopt constitutional carry, which would not require a permit and which he said 29 states have implemented in some form or another. At least 11 states, he said, have pure constitutional carry, where no background check, training, fees or concealed/open carry mandates are imposed.
Though the bill reduces the cost of the carry permit and doubles the length of time for which it is valid, Harris argues that it is not a significant cut because permit owners must still pay the costs for training classes. He said several states do not require training and that to his knowledge, this has not led to a decrease in safety for armed or unarmed citizens.
“Imagine how many people would not vote in the presidential primary if the state also decided to charge people for exercising the right to vote,” he said.
Based on Handgun Carry Permit Statistics from the years 2008-2014, the Tennessee Department of Safety (TDOS) received profit from handgun permit application fees averaging $2,504,950.29 annually. The profit is calculated by subtracting expenses from revenues, which totaled $17,534,652 for all seven years.
Harris argues this is excessive overcharging of Tennesseeans who have rights to carry.
“There should be no fee to exercise a constitutional right,” he said, citing Murdock v. Pennsylvania, 319 U.S. 105, 113 (1943), “A state may not impose a charge for the enjoyment of a right granted by the Federal Constitution.”
According to the TDOS statistics, costs covered by the income include data processing, salaries, third party professional services, benefits and other expenses.
Part of the income from application fees covers the cost of criminal history background checks, according to the TDOS website. According to the bill, the Department of Safety will still conduct a background check on gun owners after four years, though their permits would not expire for eight.
The bill, which would amend TCA section 39-17-1351, was introduced in the House and Senate in January. In the Senate Finance, Ways and Means Committee Tuesday, it was recommended for passage and referred to the Senate Calendar Committee.

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