HB 1264 passed the House on April 30, 62 to 31, with one legislator not voting. On 2 May, it passed the Senate, 18 to 11, with two senators not voting.
The final bill was watered down with amendments. As passed, HB 1264 has interesting features which reform Tennessee law in the general direction of Constitutional Carry. It is clear the Tennessee legislature was not willing to pass Constitutional Carry this year.
HB 1264 creates a two tier carry permit system. The lower tier is created by HB 1264, while the existing permit becomes the higher, or “enhanced” carry permit.
The new law becomes effective as of 1 January, 2020.
The new permit requires the handgun be carried concealed. This is a unique feature to Tennessee. Most states require more training and permits to carry concealed. As of 1 January, 2020, in Tennessee, the state will require more training to carry openly.
The new permit lists several ways that training requirements may be met. This makes it easier to obtain a permit. Training will be able to be conducted online, though an online course is not yet available.
Holders of the new permit will be excluded from carrying in more places than are excluded from the existing permit.
A photograph and fingerprints will be required on the new concealed carry handgun permit.
Originally, the bill eliminated the requirement for a photograph and fingerprints. Several other states do not require photographs or fingerprints or both.
The Wisconsin permit does not require a photograph or fingerprints, and is recognized in Tennesee. The Wisconsin permit fee is $40. Pennsylvania does not require a photograph or fingerprints to obtain their firearm carry permit. The Pennsylvania permit costs $19. Tennessee recognizes the Pennsylvania permit in Tennessee.
With the amendments, HB 1264 still requires a photograph and two sets of fingerprints. Those requirements increase the cost of the permit considerably.
The new permit fee will be $65 instead of $100. Originally, the bill called for elimination of the fee, but an amendment in the House added the $65 fee. Indiana has eliminated their fee for a five year permit. No photograph is required for the Indiana permit.
With other states' examples before them, some Second Amendment supporters in Tennessee wonder why they could not have achieved more reforms this year. From tenneseefirearms.com:
Now, some who identify as 2nd Amendment supporters have defended their “yes” votes by suggesting that this was a necessary “step” toward constitutional carry. Enacting a law that creates confusion, risks and delay is “necessary” or even a step in the right direction? That is not a credible excuse nor is it consistent with the campaign promises or constitutional oaths of office. What it evidences is in fact an unwillingness to actually run and pass constitutional carry, as 17 states including Kentucky have done, despite the fact that the Republican caucus is a super majority and it could do so even if every Democrat voted against it.
The history of restoring Second Amendment rights has been one of significant progress through incremental reform. HB 1264 makes some small steps toward Constitutional Carry.
With other states passing straightforward Constitutional Carry bills, it is likely that personal politics in Tennessee are slowing the reform progress in Tennessee. In some states, a single person has stopped the progress of reform for years.
Tennessee had no difficulty in reforming their law on the definition of firearms.
In 2019, the Tennessee Legislature passed, and Republican Governor Bill Lee signed into law, HB 0712. HB 0712 changes the definition of firearm in Tennessee law to make it compatible with federal law. It does this by excluding antique firearms from the previous definition.
Antique firearms are those manufactured before 1898, and muzzle loading firearms.
HB 0712 passed the Senate and House unanimously, and was signed into law on 2 May, 2019.
About Dean Weingarten:
Dean Weingarten has been a peace officer, a military officer, was on the University of Wisconsin Pistol Team for four years, and was first certified to teach firearms safety in 1973. He taught the Arizona concealed carry course for fifteen years until the goal of constitutional carry was attained. He has degrees in meteorology and mining engineering, and recently retired from the Department of Defense after a 30 year career in Army Research, Development, Testing, and Evaluation.