By TIM SINIARD

As of Jan. 1, Tennesseans can apply for a permit which will allow them to carry a concealed weapon, accompanied by minimal training that requires them to actually fire a weapon.

The second option, called a “concealed only handgun permit,” allows holders to carry a handgun, if it remains concealed.

The new concealed only permit costs $65 and only requires a no hands-on 90-minute online training course.

It will be valid for five years from the date of issuance.

Applicants for the new permit must still undergo background checks.

Concealed-carry only permit holders cannot carry their weapon on any state college or university campus.

Under the already existing and renamed "enhanced handgun permit," Tennesseans holding gun permits are allowed to carry open, as well as concealed firearms.

Gun owners are required to pay a $100 fee and attend an eight-hour hands-on class that requires live firing of a gun, as well as submitting to background checks.

The permit is valid for eight years from the date it is issued.

According to the Associated Press, the legislation “has drawn opposition from gun control advocates, but has also split two gun rights groups.”

The National Rifle Association's legislative arm has backed the measure.

"By creating a new concealed carry permit, Tennesseans are able to choose which permit option is best for them and their lifestyle in order to exercise their constitutional right to self-defense," the NRA's Institute for Legal Action stated.

But the Tennessee Firearms Association opposed the new permit, stating it could mean other states won't acknowledge Tennessee's existing handgun carry permits or only the new ones.

"The group also said adding the permit could get in the way of its goal of permitless carry,” the AP reported.

As of Friday, the AP reported the "Department of Safety and Homeland Security had approved just two vendors to offer online courses: Clarksville Guns and Archery Tennessee Carry Permit Online School and Tier One Tactics."

Both courses cost just under $40.

Tennessee state Sen. Mike Bell said the new law is a "less burdensome way for Tennesseans to legally carry a gun."

Bell said while he preferred the enhanced gun permit — it is recognized in 38 states as opposed to the new gun permit, which is recognized in just 14 states — he said the concealed gun permit will enable more Tennesseans to protect themselves.

He said criticism of the new gun permit has been minimal, but mentioned one particular phone call from a constituent — a gun instructor — who was critical of the no-hands on training component of the new gun permit.

"I was sympathetic to his concerns," Bell said. "They have a vested interest in the current system."

Despite the reduced training required by the state in regards to the new gun permit, Bell said responsible gun owners should always keep up with their training by visiting firing ranges, as well as ensure their weapons are cleaned and working properly.

He mentioned the recent shooting that took place at a Texas church where a gun instructor and volunteer security guard, Jack Wilson, shot and killed a gunman who had opened fire during a Sunday morning worship service, killing two congregants.

Bell said Wilson's actions saved lives and added he and other Tennesseans should be prepared to react in similar situations.

"If that day ever comes, I should be responsible and try to stop it."

Originally Published by The Cleveland Banner: http://clevelandbanner.com/stories/bell-new-gun-law-is-less-burdensome-to-legally-carry-gun,107140