Governor Haslam’s Legislation Based On State Overcharging For Handgun Permits Moves Forward in Senate to Reduce Clearly Excessive Fees
On Tuesday, February 23, an “administration” bill was presented in the Senate Judiciary Committee that has the effect of cutting the existing handgun permit fees charged to Tennesseans by more than half over time. That bill, which is referenced as Senate Bill 2566, was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee members on a 9-0 vote with no significant debate.
John Harris, Executive Director of the Tennessee Firearms Association, stated that “the Tennessee Firearms Association is glad to see that the Governor has apparently acknowledged after six years in office that his administration has been materially overcharging Tennesseans on the cost of obtaining a handgun carry permit. Tennesseans should not be charged at all for simply wanting to exercise a fundamental, constitutionally protected right to carry a firearm for self-defense and its probably a good sign when the government finally admits that it has been knowingly and substantially overcharging citizens for permits which the state requires before those citizens can even exercise their constitutionally protected 2nd Amendment rights.”
Public records obtained by the Tennessee Firearms Association from the Tennessee Department of Safety shows that from 2008 to 2014 the state of Tennessee has charged and collected $52,701,104 from citizens who were applying for state handgun permits.
However, those same state reports show that it only cost the Department of Safety $35,166,452 to fully administer that program. That means, using the State’s own figures, that the state has charged the citizens $17,534,652 more than it actually costs to run that program. However, at no point prior to the current push to demand that the Legislature adopt constitutional carry, which would not require a permit and which approximately 29 states already have in one form or another, has the Governor shown any action to stop his administration from overcharging the citizens for these permits.
“The legislation does not actually significantly reduce the cost for Tennesseans who desire to apply for a handgun permit,” Harris continued. “The current permit costs $115 and is good for four years. This bill reduces the state fee to $100 and extends the permit to an eight year permit. The bill does nothing to eliminate the costs that citizens also have to pay for the state required all day training classes which are taught by private instructors which leaves the cost of the original permits at from $150 to $200 depending on the cost of the training course. Many citizens still cannot afford that kind of fee just to be able to exercise a fundamental right. Imagine how many people would not vote in the presidential primary if the state also decided to charge people for exercising the right to vote.”
Governor Bill Haslam promised in 2010 that he would sign a constitutional carry bill if it was put on his desk. Since taking his oath of office, the governor has not asked the legislature to put a constitutional carry bill on his desk so that he could honor that promise (which promise can be seen in a video of the Governor’s statement on the TFA’s website at www.tennesseefirearms.com/haslam).
A constitutional carry bill, if enacted as it is in other states, would allow anyone who can legally purchase a handgun to carry that handgun without the necessity of a state issued handgun carry permit or its associated fees. There are at least two sets of constitutional carry bills pending this year and each of these would give the Governor the chance to fulfill an explicit campaign promise that he made to Tennessee’s firearms owner before his second term ends.