Concealed vs. Enhanced Permits

What’s the Difference?

Effective January 1, 2020, Tennessee will have not one but two different handgun carry permits: the Concealed Handgun Carry Permit and the Enhanced Handgun Carry Permit. What’s the difference, and which one is best for you? We’ve compiled some information below to help you learn more about the options and decide which permit suits your needs. Of course, nothing here is intended to be legal advice, nor is this information exhaustive. Every person who carries a handgun is personally responsible for educating himself/herself on all relevant laws and restrictions.

The Bottom Line

Based on our preliminary review of the new statute and ongoing discussions with the Department of Safety, here’s our summary of the main differences between the two permits:

  • Enhanced permit holders can carry either open or concealed; Concealed permit holders must always cover up the gun.
  • Concealed permit is easier to obtain (less training required, online training allowed, lower application fee).
  • Public college employees with Enhanced permits can carry in parks with students present, unless there’s an athletic event. Concealed permit holders cannot carry anywhere near school-related events.
  • Reciprocity agreements with other states might be disrupted with the Concealed permit, though we don’t know for sure yet. Reciprocity for Enhanced permits is expected to stay the same.

For more details, resources, links, and contact information, please continue reading below, or email the Department of Safety’s Handgun Office or call (615) 251-8590.

If by January 1, 2020 you’ve already gotten your TN handgun carry permit, that permit will be grandfathered into the new system as an Enhanced Handgun Carry Permit (the higher-level permit). You do not have to retake the training class or go through the application process a second time. Nor do you have to get an updated permit card. Once the changeover takes effect on January 1, your existing permit will be honored as an Enhanced Handgun Carry permit. There’s nothing more you have to do.

Concealed Handgun Carry Permit:

Permit holder’s gun must be concealed at all times.


Enhanced Handgun Carry Permit:

Permit holder has the option to carry either concealed or unconcealed (open carry).

Concealed Handgun Carry Permit:

With this permit, a person can carry “any handgun that [he/she] legally owns or possesses,” as long as that handgun is concealed. Permit holders are not limited to the handgun they used in any prior training class. See Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-1366(d).


Enhanced Handgun Carry Permit:

With this permit, a person can carry “any handgun that [he/she] legally owns or possesses,” and it may be either concealed or carried openly. Permit holders are not limited to the handgun they used in any prior training class. See Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-1351(n)(1).

Concealed Handgun Carry Permit:

The Department of Safety’s FAQ page provides this non-exhaustive summary of common places where permit holders cannot carry:

  • TCA 39-17-1306 – Judicial proceedings.
  • TCA 39-17-1309 – School property. Also see Attorney General Opinions 09-129 and 09-160.
  • TCA 39-17-1321 – Possession of handgun while under influence.
    TCA 39-17-1359 – Prohibition at certain meetings.
  • Attorney General Opinion 09-170 – Firearms on Leased Property.
  • Airports, military institutions, and any other building/area prohibited by federal law.

Follow the links posted on the Department’s FAQ page or contact the Department for more information.


Enhanced Handgun Carry Permit:

Almost all of the restrictions for Concealed Carry permit holders (listed above) also apply to Enhanced Carry permit holders. The main difference only applies to a small set of people: employees of public colleges who have the Enhanced Carry Permit. As for those employees, the General Assembly provides this summary:

An enhanced handgun carry permit holder who is within or on a public park, natural area, historic park, nature trail, campground, forest, greenway, waterway, or other similar public place is generally exempt from the present law prohibition against carrying weapons on any property owned, operated, or while in use by any board of education, school, college or university board of trustees, regents or directors for the administration of any public or private educational institution. Such exemption will not apply to concealed handgun carry permit holders.

This summary is admittedly confusing, especially when read in conjunction with the relevant statutes. So, we contacted the Department of Safety for clarification. We were told that public college employees with Enhanced Carry permits can carry in parks while school activities are taking place, unless those activities include athletic events. If students are present for an athletic event, then carrying a firearm is prohibited, even for Enhanced Carry permit holders. For more information, see Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-13-1309(e) and § 39-17-1311(b)(1)(H), or email the Department of Safety to inquire further.

And again, this provision only applies if you’re a full-time (not part-time) employee (not a student) of a public (not private) college or university, and you have the Enhanced (not the Concealed) permit, and you’ve gone through all the steps for authorized campus carry under Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-13-1309(e). So, this distinction probably won’t affect the vast majority of permit holders.

Concealed Handgun Carry Permit:

To be eligible for the concealed carry permit, Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-1366(b)(4)(A) requires “demonstrated competence with a handgun.” The statute lists several ways a permit applicant can demonstrate competence, including by taking a hunter safety course or other private firearms training, by serving in the military, by completing security guard or law enforcement training, or even by taking an online course (if the course meets certain requirements). Concealed carry permit applicants must also sign a declaration “stating that the applicant has read and understands the current state law on carrying handguns.”


Enhanced Handgun Carry Permit:

To be eligible for the enhanced carry permit, Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-1351(e) requires applicants to complete “handgun safety course” approved by the Department of Safety that includes “both classroom hours and firing range hours” (exceptions made for certain law enforcement and military personnel). The specific contents of the course are regulated by the Department of Safety.

Concealed Handgun Carry Permit:

Yes, online training is allowed for the concealed carry permit. In-person training is also allowed. Starting in January, CSA will be offering both online and in-person training for the Concealed Handgun Carry Permit.


Enhanced Handgun Carry Permit:

No. Training for the enhanced carry permit must be done in person. CSA will continue offering our standard eight-hour handgun permit course to meet the statutory training requirements for the enhanced permit.

Concealed Handgun Carry Permit:

T.C.A. § 39-17-1366 allows either online training or in-person training. Online courses must be at least 90 minutes long. There is no statutory minimum length for in-person training courses.


Enhanced Handgun Carry Permit:

T.C.A. § 39-17-1351 does not specify a minimum length of required training. However, state regulations mandate that the training course for the enhanced permit must be at least eight hours long. See TN Reg. Section 1340-2-3-.05.

Concealed Handgun Carry Permit:

$65


Enhanced Handgun Carry Permit:

$100

Concealed Handgun Carry Permit:

Eight years. There is no lifetime option for the concealed carry permit.


Enhanced Handgun Carry Permit:

At least eight years. Permit holders have the option of obtaining a lifetime enhanced carry permit for a higher fee ($300 for an original application or $200 for an upgrade upon renewing a previous eight-year enhanced carry permit). The Department of Safety will still conduct a criminal background check on all lifetime permit holders every five years to confirm the permit holder is still eligible.

Concealed Handgun Carry Permit:

Officials at the Department of Safety advised us that they are still in the process of contacting other states to update reciprocity agreements. However, it’s possible (and expected) that fewer states will recognize the new Concealed Carry permit due to its minimal training requirements. We won’t know for sure until the Department of Safety updates its website with the new reciprocity lists.


Enhanced Handgun Carry Permit:

Since the Enhanced Permit will be identical to the pre-2020 permit in terms of age restrictions and training requirements, we do not anticipate any change in the current reciprocity agreements for that permit. But again, we won’t know that for sure until it is confirmed by the Department of Safety.

Helpful Links

Questions?

If you have questions about the new permit system, we encourage you to email the Department of Safety’s Handgun Office or call (615) 251-8590.

Coming soon… CCW Express!

Citizens Safety Academy is preparing new curricula to meet the needs of anyone planning to apply for the new Concealed Handgun Carry Permit under Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-1366. Starting in January, we’ll be offering a new line of in-person and online courses called CCW Express. This coursework is designed to meet the lighter training requirements for the CHCP. While we highly recommend continuing on to more in-depth training, CCW Express will at least meet the minimum statutory training requirement for the new concealed handgun carry permit. Stay tuned for future updates, or contact us for more information.