Handgun carry permits take time, dedication to receive

Handgun carry permits take time, dedication to receive

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By ALEXIS ZOTOS
6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) – Recent gun violence and the raging political debate over gun laws have spiked an increase in handgun carry permits in Tennessee.

There are currently 390,000 people in Tennessee with a permit to carry a handgun in public, with Knox County home to the second largest population of permit holders in the state.

Before a person can obtain a permit in Tennessee there is a lengthy and somewhat costly process to go through.

From the classroom to the gun range, 6 News went through each step of the process.

The eight-hour course from On-Target Training Center begins in the classroom, going over everything from the basic parts of a gun to the extensive laws and regulations.

"It's a lot to learn in eight hours," said April Hamilton, a woman taking the carry permit class.

NRA certified instructor Doug Estep said it's key students walk away with an understanding of what it means to carry a gun in public.

"Having the gun in your possession is not going to make you safe. You have to be aware of what's going on around you. You don't want to get in that situation to begin with, if that's your only option to get out," explained Estep.

There is no prior knowledge needed for the class, but to pass students complete a written exam demonstrating their understanding and knowledge of the course. Then they must prove their proficiency with a gun at the range.

Ever since the tragedy in Newtown, Conn. and the raging political debate over gun control, handgun carry classes have been selling out, but the reasons differ from person to person.

For Melanie Cooper it was the need to protect her family.

"I own a small business and I have two small children and I'm by myself a lot, so I just want to be safe," she said.

Cooper said she left the class with an even greater respect for the gun.

Jeff McMurray said he took the course because it was something he always wanted to do. But recent political debate has given him a sense of urgency.

"There's been a lot of talk with this, ammunition going up and being scarce and some guns being outlawed, so you never know what's going to come up and I wanted to go ahead and get mine just in case," McMurray said.

As for Samuel Viers, he explained the class rules and regulations made him hesitant to carry a gun.

"I would be too nervous to ever carry it on me," he explained. However, he plans to still complete the process.

"I just feel I would be a bit safer with it. I don't know that I'd ever carry one on my person but just to have it in my car if I'm traveling out of town is why I want one."

Estep says that's common after the class.

"It's not just a cure all. There is actually so much responsibility that goes into being able to get it and use it properly," he explained. "Right now, right this minute, fear of death or serious bodily injury. Deadly force can only be used when you or another person are in imminent, right now, fear of death or serious bodily injury," Estep said over and over again throughout the course.

Completing the course costs around $80 but that's only half the process.  The application itself is another $115.

In addition to a certificate demonstrating completion of a course, applicants must be Tennessee residents and at least 21 years old.

Applicants must provide proof of U.S. citizenship and must be able to pass a background from TBI, FBI and the county sheriff's department.

It can take up to 90 days to receive the permit and it must be renewed every four years.  

But the cost and time are worth it for many, and for that one moment, they may need it.

"It's your last-ditch effort," Estep explained. "It's the factor that may let you go home and not the attacker."

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