Tennessee gun law to change in 2020

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NASHVILLE, Tenn.  — Tennessee will soon begin offering a new concealed carry-only handgun permit that doesn’t require an applicant to demonstrate the ability to fire a weapon.

Under the new handgun law, a permit to carry a concealed handgun could be obtained after online training of at least 90 minutes. The current handgun carry permits, to be known as “enhanced handgun carry permits,” would still remain an option. Those permits require eight hours of in-person training with live firing required — a testing procedure that critics say is time-consuming and burdensome.

The National Rifle Association’s legislative arm backed the new measure. But the Tennessee Firearm Association opposed it, contending that other states may refuse to acknowledge Tennessee’s existing handgun carry permits or only the new ones. The group also said adding the permit could get in the way of its goal of permitless carry.

While the bill was being debated during the 2019 legislative session, Democratic lawmakers criticized the bill for its lax rules and testing requirements.

At one point, Senate Minority Leader Jeff Yarbro, a Democrat from Nashville, said he was able to skip an online training course’s videos and finish while the legislative committee he was in advanced the bill. The Tennessee chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, a nationwide organization working to curb gun violence, also opposed the bill.

In late November, the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security began accepting applications from vendors seeking to offer online concealed-carry class. Applications must include proof of handgun instructor certification.

The new concealed-carry only permit application would be $65, instead of the enhanced handgun carry permit’s $100 fee. However, that $65 fee does not include the cost of the online course.

As of Friday, the Department of Safety and Homeland Security had approved just two vendors to offer online courses: Clarksville Guns and Archery Tennessee Carry Permit Online School and Tier One Tactics. Both courses cost just under $40.

Only one vendor has been denied approval due to their course being too short, a spokeswoman with the agency confirmed.

Concealed-carry only permit holders cannot carry their weapon on any state college or university campus.

The new law goes into effect Jan. 1. Most new laws are implemented at the beginning of a fiscal year, which kicks off on July 1, but a handful are also scheduled for later if the state needs more time to prepare for the changes.

Other new laws taking effect in Tennessee will:

— Require state employee insurance to cover proton therapy, an alternative treatment for certain cancers. Proton therapy is a highly advanced form of radiation treatment, which uses protons rather than X-rays to treat cancer. Officials say the advantage of proton therapy is that it can be better controlled and deliver higher doses of radiation to tumors with fewer side effects.

— Require any prescription for an opioid to be issued electronically. This law was approved by the Tennessee Legislature in 2018, but the state allowed more time for providers and pharmacies to comply.

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