Bill advances to make handgun-carry permits secret

On April 28, 2009, in News 2009, by Mark Norris

By Richard Locker, Memphis Commercial Appeal
April 28, 2009

NASHVILLE — The legislation to make secret all information on Tennessee’s 220,000 handgun-carry permit holders advanced in a House committee today and appears headed for House and Senate floor votes as early as next week.

The House Finance Committee recommended approval of the bill and sent it to the Calendar & Rules Committee, which schedules it for floor debate. The Senate version, sponsored by Sen. Mark Norris, R-Collierville, is in the Senate Calendar Committee awaiting the House vote.

The House committee’s vote today came after the legislative spokesman for the state Department of Safety, which administers the handgun-carry permit program, told lawmakers the department has no position on whether the bill should pass or fail.

The bill’s House sponsor, Rep. Eddie Bass, D-Pulaski, defended the measure against questions from committee members about why he wants to totally close the permit records. “I can see why you would want to keep Social Security numbers and some other items on the application confidential,” said Rep. Tommie Brown, D-Chattanooga, who said she’s bothered by a total closure of records of people licensed by the state to carry handguns.

Rep. Jimmy Naifeh, D-Covington, asked Bass whether the bill would close public access to information about why licensees’ permits are suspended or revoke. Last year, the department revoked 280 gun-carry permits.

Bass acknowledged that it does close that information but said that if the revocation is a result of an incident that results in a criminal charge, the information is available “at the courthouse — but the fact that he’s got a permit would only be public if it’s included in the police report.”

Roger Hutto, the Department of Safety’s legislative liaison, said the agency views it as “a legislative prerogative if they want to open or close those records. Obviously we work with the administration and right now our position is to defer on the bill.”

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