Tennessee lagging behind neighbors in gun-rights protection

This past winter, the Kentucky Legislature approved a new provision allowing any law-abiding citizen in the state to carry a concealed firearm without first having to obtain a government permit.

The law, signed by Republican Gov. Matt Bevin in March, takes effect this week.

The refashioned statutory language proclaims that adults 21 years of age or beyond “and otherwise able to lawfully possess a firearm, may carry concealed firearms or other concealed deadly weapons without a license in the same locations as persons with valid licenses issued (by the state).”

Gun-rights advocates say the new measure isn’t really a vast departure from the previous law. In the past, gun owners in the Bluegrass State could legally carry a firearm in public so long as it was visible. However, they were prohibited from concealing a gun without a special permit.

The new law “simply extends the current open carry rule to concealed carry,” according to a National Rifle Association press release in March lauding the state for approving the law.

“Those who obtain permits will still be able to take advantage of the reciprocity agreements that Kentucky has with other states,” the NRA noted.

Kentucky is now the 16th state to recognize “constitutional carry.” Others, according to the NRA, are Alaska, Arizona,, Idaho, Kansas, Maine, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Vermont, West Virginia and Wyoming. Also on the list are four of Tennessee’s border states: Arkansas, Mississippi and Missouri and now Kentucky.

Second Amendment stalwarts have been pushing constitutional carry in Tennessee for years, but they’ve regularly run into legislative roadblocks, despite ostensibly firearm-friendly Republicans dominating state politics for nearly a decade.

Earlier this year the Tennessee General Assembly approved concealed carry legislation that loosen the requirements for obtaining a permit to carry a gun covertly.

As of January 2020, the new, cheaper concealed-only permit will become available to Tennesseans — and it won’t require them to take an all-day firearms training course. If they can’t prove any prior formal firearms training, they’ll be required to complete a 90-minute online course.

Previously, the state required people to enroll in an eight-hour, in-person instructional safety course to legally carry a firearm in public, concealed or not.

The new law renames the handgun carry permit available under present law as the “enhanced handgun carry permit,” and it creates a new “concealed handgun carry permit,” according to the Tennessee Legislature’s website.

“An enhanced handgun carry permit does not specify the manner in which a handgun must be carried,” a summary of the legislation declares. “A concealed handgun carry permit will only authorize the holder to carry in a concealed manner.”

A concealed-only permit will last eight years and cost $65. The enhanced permit is $100 for the same period.