Mere seconds after a gunman began shooting in a Texas church, armed parishioners shot him dead. Lives were saved because the state, last September, gave churches authority to allow weapons. And as with other states, Tennessee also has eased restrictions on residents arming themselves.

Effective Jan. 1, a state resident may obtain a concealed carry permit by taking an online course, a faster and cheaper alternative to the former process, which required hands-on training. That process remains as an “enhanced” permit requiring a daylong, in-person course and a $100 application fee, which entitles you to also open carry. It also includes live fire training.

But for concealed carry only, you may pay $65 for a permit by taking an online course that costs $39 from Clarksville Guns and Archery or Tier One Tactics, the only providers approved by the state currently. There will undoubtedly be more in the future.

You must be 21, pass a background check from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, and provide a certificate showing you completed the online course within the previous year. The course will take at least 90 minutes.

Even in a Republican legislature, it was a bit of a struggle to get Tennessee’s new concealed carry permit approved last year. While the legislation passed easily in the House, it faced bipartisan criticism in the Senate last spring when it passed 18-11. Lt. Gov. Randy McNally, R-Oak Ridge, was among four Republicans who did not cast votes, and six Republicans joined the chamber’s five Democrats in voting against the bill.

Another law in effect Jan. 1 makes it a class A misdemeanor to transfer a firearm to a person knowing that the person: has been judicially committed to a mental institution or adjudicated as a mental defective, unless the person’s right to possess firearms has been restored; or, is receiving inpatient mental health or substance abuse treatment at a hospital or treatment resource.

The next step in this new legislative session is to pass extreme risk laws that would allow family members or law enforcement officers to petition courts to temporarily disarm individuals who are chronically mentally ill or in temporary crisis. These laws have been shown to be effective at preventing gun suicides, which make up two-thirds of all firearm deaths in the U.S. They also prevent such individuals from having access to weapons by which to commit mass murder.

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