Haslam lauds defeat of pemitless handgun carry bill

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) – Gov. Bill Haslam on Wednesday lauded a Senate committee for defeating a proposal to get rid of Tennessee’s requirement to obtain a state-issued permit to carry handguns in public.

Supporters of annual efforts to loosen handgun carry laws in Tennessee have long argued that permit holders’ background checks and training ensure that they are responsible enough to be armed in most public situations.

“We’ve passed a lot of bills based on handgun carry permit holders, and it just felt wrong to kind of change the game in the middle of it,” Haslam said.

About 544,000 people had handgun carry permits in Tennessee at the start of this month. According to the Safety Department’s most recent statistics, about 1,700 permit applications were denied in 2014, while another 1,500 were suspended or revoked.

The bill sponsored by Republican Sen. Mark Green of Clarksville failed on a 4-4 vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday evening. Bills must receive a majority vote to advance.

Green argued that more people need to be armed because of threats posed to the United States by Islamic “lone-wolf terrorists.”

“The armed citizenry is really the only last defense we have,” Green said.

Four Republicans voted in favor of the bill, while Republican Sens. Doug Overbey of Maryville and John Stevens of Huntingdon joined two Democrats in voting against it. Republican Sen. Todd Gardenhire of Chattanooga abstained.

The National Rifle Association and the Tennessee Firearms Association support the effort to remove the need for handgun carry permits in the state.

“This battle is not over,” the Tennessee gun rights group said in a release after the vote. “But we have to accept that Bill Haslam, his minions and too many people living their lives on your tax dollars, as well as several elected officials, are doing everything in their powers to oppress your rights.”