Carter County Sheriff weighs in on new handgun carry permit law

Tennessee has a new handgun carry law going into effect January 1 of next year, creating a second tier of gun carry permits to differentiate between concealed carry and open carry.

Carter County Sheriff Dexter Lunceford said the previous law only had one dimension to it, allowing a permit holder to hold their handgun anywhere on their person. Now the law more clearly differentiates between the two.

“They renamed the current handgun carry permit as an ‘enhanced’ handgun carry permit,” Lunceford said.

The differences between enhanced and concealed permits come from both methods of acquisition and the rights those wielders have.

“The concealed permit must be in a concealed manner,” he said. “It can’t be viewed. [They] are only required to undergo a name-based criminal history check, not a fingerprint submittal.”

He said this makes the concealed permit easier to obtain than the open-carry, but there are additional restrictions.

Open-carry permit holders are exempt from regulations prohibiting them from bringing their handguns in public areas like parks or other public areas, while concealed carry holders are not exempt.

One major change this new law provides, however, is where those background checks take place. As part of the fingerprint process, one set will go to the TBI, while another will go to the Sheriff’s Office.

“The sheriff will provide the department with any information about the truthfulness [of it],” he said. “I do not have the manpower.”

He said this could be a problem, as he is not sure just how many permits his department will have to help process on a daily basis.

Some reports about the law, sponsored by state representative Andy Holt, state the new law would allow citizens to apply for a permit online instead of taking an eight-hour, state-certified course. Lunceford said this is not the case.

“You cannot go online and get a permit,” he said.

This is because both permits still require state certification. Instead, the law itself states concealed permit holders must show competency with the weapon, which potential holders can do in a variety of ways.

“Instead of completing a department-approved handgun safety course, an applicant for a concealed handgun carry permit will be required to demonstrate competence with a handgun, which may be accomplished by various forms of experience, including, but not limited to, completion of a hunter safety course, completion of a firearm safety course using instructors certified by the NRA or department of safety, military service, prior issuance of a carry permit, law enforcement or security training, or any other firearm training that the department of safety deems adequate,” the law said. Later amendments removed the reference to the NRA.

This experience cannot be showcased in an online course.

Lunceford said he is waiting to see the Department of Safety’s policy recommendation so he can determine the overall effect the new law will have on their operations, though he said he does not expect much change.

“I have not been involved in this process before,” Lunceford said.

The law goes into effect January 1, 2020.

For the full law, go to tn.gov, go to legislative bill, search House Bill 1264.

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