Tennesseans who want to sign up for a permit to legally carry firearms in public will soon have the option of making that government-issued permission slip valid for their entire lifetimes — for a $500 fee.
Republican Gov. Bill Haslam this week signed the measure into law. It was sponsored by Republicans — Sen. Frank Niceley of Strawberry Plains and Rep. John Holsclaw of Elizabethton — but passed on lopsided bipartisan votes in both chambers.
During Senate discussion on the bill April 13, Niceley said the purpose is primarily that of convenience.
“At my age I would be foolish to get a lifetime carry permit, but if you are a young man or a woman — and a lot of women have carry permits now — you pay a one-time fee of $500, and you never have to go back,” said the 68-year-old East Tennessee lawmaker.
Niceley added that the cost of the lifetime license the state is charging “actually makes a little money for the department.”
Up to now, a handgun permit was only good for four year stint on a variable fee structure, then had to be renewed, according to the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security.
Under the terms of the bill the department would still do periodic background checks to determine if permit-holders have been convicted of a crime that would warrant suspension or revocation. Typically, if someone is convicted of a felony their permit is seized at that time by the judge, said Niceley.
Roughly 500,000 people in Tennessee are licensed to carry firearms in public — a number that’s gone dramatically up in the last several years.
In order to obtain a permit, a person must complete a firearms safety course and undergo a background check.