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Debate over concealed carry permits continues in Tennessee state legislature

Proposed legislation is looking to exempt Tennesseans from needing a permit to carry a concealed gun.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Lawmakers in Tennessee are debating a bill that would no longer require concealed carry gun owners in Tennessee to get a permit. 

"It can be quite expensive for an individual, particularly in a time like this, when so many have reduced hours or were even laid off, to go get the permit," said Tennessee Firearms Association President John Harris. 

A concealed-only permit in Tennessee costs $65 and is good for eight years. 

On top of the costs for a permit, Harris believes a permit isn't necessary. 

"You learn real quick that the permit doesn't make us any safer as a state," he said. "It doesn't reduce crime, it doesn't make those who decide to carry any more competent or careful when they do carry." 

Currently, in Tennessee, the law requires anyone wanting a permit to go through training and have their fingerprints taken. However, lawmakers relaxed training requirements for most gun owners starting in 2020 with the creation of the concealed-only permit -- which requires 90 minutes of training that's not hands-on. 

Democratic Caucus Chair Vincent Dixie feels carrying a weapon is a heavy responsibility that should continue to be cross-checked. 

"With the crime rate that we have going up, especially during this pandemic, this is not what we need — more guns on the street, and really, people with untrained abilities with guns on the street," Dixie said.

Harris said most concealed carry gun owners already go through a thorough process before they even get a gun in their hands. 

"Most of the people who acquire a firearm in the first place must go through a background check, because most people, not all but most, buy them from a licensed dealer, and to do that they must go through a federally-required background check," Harris said. "So to require them to go through another background check is pointless." 

Dixie disagrees. 

"I think that it is very dangerous — it's irresponsible," he said. "I think as a legislative body, we would be at fault if we were to let this legislation pass. We would have blood on our hands."