Putting the cherry on top of a frenzied final day of their 2019 legislative session, Tennessee lawmakers passed a bill Thursday to allow concealed carry-only handgun permits that don’t require training on actually firing a weapon. Governor Bill Lee said he would sign the new permit bill.
The Senate voted 18-11 in favor of the bill that allows online training of at least 90 minutes followed by a test – with no hands-on contact with an actual weapon – to qualify for the new, less-expensive permit. Current requirements include eight hours of training and a live-firing component to prove sufficient marksmanship with a weapon before issuance of a permit.
Senator John Stevens contends that requirement is time consuming and burdensome.
Six Republican senators voted with the five Democrats in opposing the measure. Critics said the current handgun carry permit works just fine. The new permit would cost $65, compared to $100 for the present carry permit.
The NRA’s legislative arm backed the measure, while the Tennessee Firearm Association opposed it over concerns that other states won’t acknowledge Tennessee’s existing handgun carry permits or only the new ones.
Earlier this week, the state chapter of a gun-safety advocacy group delivered lawmakers a letter signed by 35 Tennessee gun-safety instructors in opposition of the bill.
Democratic Senate Minority Leader Jeff Yarbro of Nashville said he was able to skip an online training course’s videos and finish it Thursday during committee discussions. “We’re basically turning this testing process into a joke. My 5-year-old could get through this test online without any difficulty, and so could anyone,” he said.
But Tullahoma Republican Senator Janice Bowling – who ran for office by billing herself as a “pistol-packin’ momma” – said the new permit creates confusion. She also voted no on the bill.