Skip to comments.(Tennessee) What if we had no gun permits?
Posted on 11/02/2010 2:55:59 AM PDT by The Magical Mischief Tour
As Julie Tenpenny worked on her laptop last week in Nashville Sporting Arms, the small west Nashville gun shop she owns with her brother, Chris Tenpenny, you could actually watch as the question began to munch away at her brain.
When first asked whether eliminating handgun carry permits would be wise, she didnt quite understand. It was clear that to Julie, a gun-store owner, the concepts right to carry and permitted to carry were so linked, such an unquestioned part of the life of a gun owner, that they meant the same thing. But when it became clear what we were really talking about, she briefly expressed support.
So just eliminate it and just be able to do it like that? Well, yeah, she said. Then, 18 seconds later: Well, I dont know, I actually do have a problem. You should responsibly go through a course that explains the law. You have to know the law and be able to show competency with using your firearm. So I do think the permit is necessary.
Chris, a self-described pro-Second Amendment conservative, expressed similar dissonance at the proposition.
There are definitely two trains of thought. Theres the train that says you have the right to bear arms, but with rights come responsibilities, he said. When asked which one he fell into, he thought for a moment and paused as he gave his answer. I understand both trains of thought, but I have no problem with requiring people to demonstrate at least real basic competency.
Julie put it more strongly.
You are putting other people in danger by ignorantly carrying a gun, she said.
Ignorance equates to danger and irresponsibility, Chris added. But while that would seem to indicate that he had made up his mind, he took issue when Julie compared gun permit requirements with drivers license requirements.
But driving is a privilege, not a right, see. Thats where the debate comes in.
Thats where its come in lately, at least, as the 2010 gubernatorial race staggers messily toward the finish line.
The birth of an issue
Bill Haslam, Tennessees next governor by predestination, likely didnt damage his chances by taking one of very few firm policy positions on Oct. 18, when he told a meeting of the Tennessee Firearms Association that he would sign (if not actually campaign for) a bill to eliminate handgun carry permits if the legislature manages to pass one.
Its a non-issue momentarily. And its been one pretty much since 1994, when the state legislature changed the word may to shall in the then-five-year-old handgun carry permit law. First county governments, then later the Tennessee Department of Safety, were compelled to issue a permit to anyone who passed a background check, paid a $115 fee and successfully completed an eight-hour safety course. It seemed clear-cut, constitutionally sound and most importantly, reasonable enough. An initial records search of the state attorney generals office by its staff, requested by The City Paper, found no instance in which the office was requested to issue an opinion on a possible repeal of the law since 1989.
As for the why now, attorney and TFAs executive director, John Harris, said its just the political climate.
Then again, like in many other debates this year, some say its not so grassroots.
What I think has happened here is that a zealot group the NRA and people who have a profoundly misguided view of the Second Amendment have decided that theyre going to assert their constitutional right to carry, which they dont understand is not an absolute right. They really start with the assumption that I have a constitutional right to carry a gun everywhere, and now well start talking, said attorney David Randolph Smith, a leading gun control advocate who successfully argued that the 2009 version of the so-called guns-in-bars law was too vague to be on the books. Nashville Judge Claudia Bonnyman overturned the law last year. The General Assembly later passed a version that has thus far remained in state code.
By taking this stand, Haslam may have rung a bell that cant be unrung for the next governor. In the medium-to-long-run, beginning in January when the 107th General Assembly takes the Capitol, this might turn from one of those things that very few people used to think about into one of those things for which platitudinous yelling is the preferred mode of discussion.
I thought that he gave an unfortunate response, Smith said. I am sure that if he had had time to reflect, he probably would have said that he hopes that the legislature would not pass such a law. As far as the concept of signing a bill that eliminated handgun carry permits, that would put Tennessee in an even more extreme position in allowing guns to permeate the society.
Harris was also less than pleased with the comment, but for different reasons: He would have liked Haslam to actively support a repeal.
I interpreted Mayor Haslam to say that he was content with the current system, that he will not be on the front of the line moving to adopt [a repeal], Harris said. I think that was as much as we could anticipate him saying at this point.
And an actual end to required permits is more than Harris said his organization is likely to seek this legislative session.
Its doable if the stars align like they did a couple of years ago, when Jimmy Naifeh stopped being speaker, Harris said. I just dont think its something thats going to be if you had to pick one off of our wish list, I dont think its at the top of our list right now.
Even if Tennessee handgun owners might someday be allowed to carry without a permit, federally required background checks would still be in place. Beyond that, it depends on what type of law would be enacted and how it would fit into current state code.
If permits are revoked or simply made optional, prospective gun owners would no longer be required to get any training, police wouldnt have access to the records of hundreds of thousands of gun owners and big chunks of state gun laws written after the establishment of the carry permit would have to be debated again and reworked.
There are two templates for handgun carry permit elimination bills: Arizona-style, enacted last year there, which does not require people to have permits but retains them as an option; and Vermont-style, which writes permits out of state law altogether. Harris said hed prefer the former.
The fact that a permit is issued in Tennessee allows Tennesseans to carry in more than 30 other states, as opposed to Vermont, whose residents can only carry in their own state and Alaska. And so Arizona, for example, when they adopted their system, put in place a provision that says that those who want permits can apply for them and theyll be issued.
Arizona, however, requires gun owners to have a permit to enter certain places, such as restaurants that serve alcohol, which Harris said he would not want to see in a Tennessee law. That, of course, brings the issue to existing, post-permit law, which includes a number of exceptions carry allowed for permit holders, no carry allowed except for certain permit holders that account for the existence of permits.
The exceptions for, say, carrying a gun in a bar are that you have a permit, which carries with it this concept that youve been vetted and background-checked and had eight hours of instruction, Smith said. So yeah, if the law were changed overnight, youd also have to change all the other laws. Otherwise, you wouldnt have any right to carry in a bar, in a park, all these other laws that theyve ginned up to create an exception.
That could be taken care of on the front end, Harris said.
I think it would all have to be looked at in one omnibus bill, he said. I think the whole system would have to be re-evaluated.
And simplified, which to Harris would mean allowing people to carry most anywhere: parks, restaurants, perhaps even schools. Justifying that, Harris points to a relatively clean record on the part of permitted gun owners.
I think that in general, the people who are going to commit crimes and are likely to commit crimes arent going to bother with getting permits, rendering permits and bans on carrying largely meaningless. But Smith points to data from the Violence Policy Center, which recently released a report showing more than 200 murders committed by carry permit holders between 2007 and 2010.
In Tennessee, there are handgun carry permit holders who have shot people and killed people and wounded people, Smith said. So the concept that a handgun carry permit holder is any more law-abiding than anyone else is ridiculous. Theyre human beings.
And, he said, for those cases, why take an investigative tool from law enforcement? Indeed, as was the case with the Association of Arizona Chiefs of Police during permit debates last year, law enforcement officials have shown a pattern of opposing legislation that expands handgun ownership and carry rights. Harris said he doesnt think that should matter here.
Back when our nation was founded and the constitution was debated, comments were made and well received that those who sacrifice liberty for personal safety deserve neither, Harris said. Law enforcement has done a good job in Tennessee over the past 50 years or so, advancing legislation which makes their job markedly easier but has done so, in many respects, without regard to fundamental constitutional rights.
As for the training issue, Smith said that he would like to see more training, rather than less or none, for prospective handgun owners. When he was originally arguing the 2009 guns-in-bars bill, a frequent argument used by politicians supporting the law was rooted in what they characterized as a stringent permitting system. Smith said he anticipates that, should a debate on required permits come up, support for their elimination might, ironically, come from many of those same people.
If you buy into what I would call the somewhat flawed logic that the handgun carry permit system allows some level of protection, that is completely inconsistent to the claim that we dont need permits at all, he said.
We allow people to vote as granted in the Constitution without a permit and no training.
Voting can be far more dangerous to far more poeple then carrying a pistol! Just look at our current President...
I’d prefer the Arizona/VT/AK model.
If you can’t have that model, then I’ll say a background check is all that is required. The cost of the permit is $500/5 years. If you pass a training course in laws and shooting proficiency then the cost is discounted to Administrative only. In this case $115. The point is that it will encourage people to get training but I don’t believe the 2nd amendment mentioned any training requirements so it doesn’t specifically require it.
All this is better than the “may issue” of NJ. We may issue carry permits but you may issue a $50000 donation to the democrat of our choice or you may not get it. This why there are 1200CCW in a state of 9 million people.
But, if person feels the need for some initial training or even more advanced training, then they can go out and get it... Just like they can do right now.
According to the wording of the Constitution which must inform all our laws, it is an absolute right.
You are putting other people in danger by ignorantly carrying a gun, she said.
Yep, like your average gang banger.
This is none of their business. Guns are private property.
‘We allow people to vote as granted in the Constitution without a permit and no training.’
You have no federal right to vote, see Bush v. Gore.
Voting is a state right.
We allow people to vote as granted in the Constitution without a permit and no training. Voting can be far more dangerous to far more poeple then carrying a pistol! Just look at our current President...
Repeated over and over and over again, until people get it. Get it? I know you do!
The Constitution does not create a clause "if you know how to safely and properly carry a firearm."
We have a right to keep and BEAR arms.
These nitwits have it completely backwards.
We have a RIGHT to carry firearms unless we prove ourselves reckless and irresponsible by harming others or their property.
This nonsense is being spewed by those who have gone through the process of obtaining a permit and resent others not having to do that, which the Constitution says THEY ARE NOT REQUIRED TO DO. It's that simple.
Surprising that TN is leading the way here. Constitutional carry makes sense. While I personally think that training is a good thing, I don’t think it should be a requirement for exercise of a basic right. I think John Lott looked at the question and came to the conclusion that the required training didn’t make much of a difference from a macro perspective.
The big question is Arizona. VT has had Constitutional carry since the early 20th century and AK has had it for I guess about 5 years. Both states are thinly populated without any really large metropolitan areas. When AZ goes on it’s merry way without “blood running in the streets” for a couple of years, you’ll see other states adopt Constitutional carry.
It's truly heartening to see the debate now shifting to eliminating all unconstitutional abridgements of the right to keep and bear arms. We have come a long ways from the darkest days of the 1970s!
> The cost of the permit is $500/5 years.
That’s a lot of money. It would be enough to keep me from having a gun.
Paying even one cent is the same as paying a poll tax for the right to vote. I don’t see a difference.
Why? The TN that I have lived in all my life is very pro-gun/pro-2nd Amendment. Not as much as Vermont maybe but we would like to be.
“The cost of the permit is $500/5 years.”
I think it is terrible to place a $500 “poll tax” on carrying a piece of private property.
If they are forcing people to have “permits” to partake of what is admitted to be a right from God, and is supposedly acknowledged by America’s government of men, then charging for them is adding insult to injury.
I can’t wait to line up for the $500 permit on free speech.
I agree with you, FRiend. I do, however, agree with the young lady in the article concerning training. It should absolutely not be an impediment to carrying, but like driving a car, a boat, a motorcycle, or raising a child, a little bit of knowledge goes a long way.
Besides, putting the burden on the carrier is garbage. The old meme of “when guns are outlawed...” goes the same for training. Gangbangers are still going to carry without training, but the people are required to go through it?
TN has a rotten set of carry laws. Those laws are usually reflective of the underlying political reality. In TN you need a permit for OC, you need to be fingerprinted, the handgun permit is expensive, and you still have a lot of places where carry is not permitted. Such as parks, municipal buildings, etc. And there is no provision for nonresidents to obtain a permit.
“The TN that I have lived in all my life is very pro-gun/pro-2nd Amendment.”
Don’t get me wrong, I love TN. TN is better than some, but not as good as others on gun rights. I’d give TN a C+/B- on gun rights. Orders of magnitude better than CA, NJ, NY and IL. But not as good as AZ, AK, VT, VA or KY.
I’d be delighted to see TN jump to the head of the pack with Constitutional carry.
So, what is the overall experience in those states that have instituted “Vermont-style” carry. Accidents/crime up?? I seriously doubt it. I haven’t seen any studies on the point.