NASHVILLE– House Majority Leader William Lamberth (R-Portland) announced Tuesday he plans to eliminate state fees for handgun carry permits issued in Tennessee.
The announcement came as Lamberth was scheduled to present his House Bill 2027 to the Constitutional Protections & Sentencing Subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee.
Lamberth’s bill, as currently written, would revamp the eight-year enhanced handgun carry permit and lifetime carry permit scheme which carries a $100 and $200 fee, respectively.
HB 2027 would make all enhanced handgun carry permits issued before or after January 1, 2021, valid for the permittee’s lifetime,subject to the Department of Safety’s five-year criminal background check.
Additionally, Lamberth wants the fee for the lifetime permit by 50 percent from the current $200 to $100.
Prior to the start of the subcommittee meeting Tuesday, Lamberth asked that his bill be rolled one week. He then decided to publicly announce at the meeting the reason for that delay.
His original goal was to reduce the lines at DMV by making all carry permits a lifetime carry permit, thereby eliminating the renewal process at DMV.
In conversations with the Department of Safety and fiscal review, the representative told the subcommittee members, his original proposal will have a cost of a couple of million dollars to execute his proposal.
Indeed, the fiscal note for the measure as written shows a reduction of state revenues of $1.8 million in the second half of the current 2020-2021 fiscal year, increasing to $3.6 million in fiscal years 2022 through 2028, increasing again in fiscal year 2029 to $5.9 million and to $8.2 million from fiscal year 2030 and beyond.
That raised an important question for Lamberth.
“Why are we charging citizens anything to get a carry permit, who have an absolute, constitutional right to be able to possess that firearm?”
When he comes before the subcommittee during next week’s regularly scheduled meeting, Lamberth said the amendment he is having drafted will drastically change the bill and will provide, “That every single person that wants to get a carry permit, it will be free.”
After his presentation to the subcommittee, Lamberth told The Tennessee Star of his effort, “Let’s simply do the right thing and not charge a fee.”
He said the current funding mechanism falls “on the backs of citizens” for what is their constitutional right to keep and bear arms.
It is Lamberth’s position that, rather than a fee-based budget for the Handgun Permit Division of the Department of Safety, it should be funded outright.
An additional feature of his amendment, Lamberth told The Star, will change the statutory requirement for background checks from once every five years to once every four years.
That will increase the states that recognize Tennessee’s lifetime carry permit status. With the current five year background checks, there are two states that do not recognize Tennessee’s lifetime carry permit.
Michigan and North Dakota will not officially accept and have unofficially said it is due to Tennessee’s five-year background check on lifetime carry permits. Lamberth’s pending amendment will give a strong argument for a reciprocal agreement on Tennessee’s lifetime carry permits going forward, due to the inclusion of a four-year rotation on background checks, in addition to the per incident checks currently in place.
As Lamberth told The Star, handgun carry permits are still needed for reciprocity purposes with other states.
– – –
Laura Baigert is a senior reporter at The Tennessee Star.