TENNESSEE’S HANDGUN PERMIT LAW IN A NUTSHELL
Tennessee’s civilian handgun permit law is contained in Tennessee Code Annotated §§ 39-17-1301 to 39-17-1360.
As a result of the changes in the handgun permit laws from 1994 through 1997, Tennessee issues civilian handgun carry permits that have the following general attributes:
- the initial application fee is $115 (cash) and requires the successful completion of a state certified handgun training course prior to making application for the permit;
- the state must respond to the application within 90 days by either issuing the permit or notifying the applicant of any problems with the application;
- renewal fees are $50 and, like a driver’s license, do not require further training or qualifications as a condition of renewal;
- the handgun permit is good for four years;
- the handgun permit is good “statewide;”
- the handgun permit is good for any handgun that the permit holder legally owns or possesses; and
- the handgun permit is not a concealed weapon permit.
These attributes were obtained only after concentrated lobbying efforts over several years by many groups including the National Rifle Association and the Tennessee Firearms Association. However, the Tennessee civilian handgun carry permit remains practically useless as a means of enabling the permit holder to provide for his or her own personal protection with a firearm while in public.
The Tennessee civilian handgun permit is useless because a permit holder remains burdened with a patchwork of restrictions, prohibitions, conditions and traps set by the Tennessee Legislature, local governments, and the federal government. As a result of that patchwork of regulations and restrictions, a permit holder cannot rely upon the handgun permit as a means of enabling him or her to legally have a handgun readily available whenever and wherever it may be needed. What use can be made of a handgun for self-defense if the permit holder is effectively disarmed by governmental enactment of questionable constitutionality?
As it exists since 1997 in Tennessee, the civilian handgun permit is primarily form over substance. Its burdened existence is similar to having the freedom of speech with no printing press or other effective means of communication. It is, nonetheless, better than its state predecessors. Consequently, even burdened with restrictions, it represents a step, albeit a small one, in the direction of enabling the good and concerned citizens of the State of Tennessee to exercise their right to provide for their own self-defense and, if they so chose, to do so by carrying a handgun.