Main Reason Cited
For Big Increase
In Carry Permits
BY O.J. EARLY
Stewart Kilgore has been teaching handgun safety classes for decades.
During the last several years, however, the retired Greeneville Police detective lieutenant has seen a significant increase in attendance for his classes.
"People are really coming out," he said.
Come out they have.
The number of handgun-carry permits issued in Greene County and Tennessee has steadily, and dramatically, increased since 2010, according to the Tennessee Department of Safety & Homeland Security.
In early June, a total of 5,466 county residents were licensed to carry a handgun. That's up from the 1,319 county citizens who could legally carry a handgun in 2010, state records show.
At present, one out of every 10 eligible Greene County adults has a permit to carry a handgun, based on U.S. Census data.
Statewide, just over 100,000 Tennesseans held handgun-carry permits in 2010. In early June, 428,919 state residents could legally carry a handgun.
As of June, Shelby County (Memphis) had more handgun carry permit-holders than any other county in the state with 50,637. Knox County was second with 27,659 permit-holders.
WHY THE INCREASE?
So, why are so many more people choosing to go armed -- or at least choosing to get a permit so that they can go armed legally if they wish to do so, and are complying with gun-carry regulations?
Self-protection, Kilgore said, is the reason most people cite for taking his safety course.
"No. 1, they know that law enforcement officers can't be everywhere," he said. "And they know that if someone is being violent, kicking their door down to come into their home, they don't have time to dial 9-1-1 and get a lawman out there."
Uncertainty about future gun laws is another reason many students take his class.
"A lot of them have said, 'We don't know where this country is going so we are going to get a permit so that they (government) can't take them [guns] away from us," he said.
A report released in March by the Pew Research Center said that, in the nation as whole, self-protection is the top reason Americans own guns.
Nearly half -- 48 percent -- of gun-owners in the U.S. said having a gun makes them feel safer, according to the report.
Greene County resident Yvonne Byrd successfully completed a handgun safety course last week.
She plans to apply soon for a handgun carry permit.
"It's for protection," Byrd said. "My son works 11-7. Hannah [her daughter] and I are here alone all night."
The same report issued by the Pew Research Center said overall gun ownership has been in decline nationwide since the 1970s.
Gov. Bill Haslam in late April signed a law that closed the public's access to information contained in any application for a handgun carry permit in the Volunteer State.
The law doesn't stop publication, but records are now "confidential, not open or available for public inspection and shall not be released in any manner."
In short, the law restricts public access to information about Tennessee citizens granted authority to carry firearms.
Want to get a permit to legally carry a handgun?
First, complete a safety course offered by a handgun safety instructor certified by the Tennessee Department of Safety.
Kilgore's course is one, but there are also numerous other local handgun safety instructors and courses.
Note: You must be 21-years-old to legally carry a handgun, and there are certain other requirements.
After successfully completing the safety course, fill out an application offered at any full Tennessee Driver Service Center, such as the one on Hal Henard Road in Greene County.
When you apply, take the following items: a safety course completion certificate, proof of U.S. citizenship or lawful permanent residency, a photo ID, and $115 to pay the non-refundable permit fee.