NASHVILLE - Senators today approved a bill shutting off wholesale public access to the state's handgun-carry permit records, which mostly would make confidential the names of nearly 400,000 Tennesseans authorized to carry loaded firearms in public.
The bill passed 27-2. The House last month passed the measure, but senators added an amendment.
It allows "any person or entity" to ask the Tennessee Department of Safety to search the permit database to see if a specific person has a permit. The requester would have to present a "court conviction judgment, criminal history report, order of protection or other official government document or record that indicates the named person is not eligible to possess a gun-carry permit."
That forces the bill back to the House.
"This is a bill to prevent the publication of handgun-carry permit holders in the news media where their names and addresses are put on a map," said Sen. Ferrell Haile, R-Gallatin, the bill's sponsor.
He said the bill "also protects nonpermit holders." Haile, who is carrying the bill for Republican Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey, said someone with access to the list could check names and decide a homeowner has no guns at home and is unprotected.
The Commercial Appeal in Memphis maintains on its website a searchable database of Tennessee handgun-carry permit holders' identities and hometowns. It does not include street addresses or birthdates. In Tennessee, no news organization is publishing or posting maps showing specific addresses of permit holders.
Earlier this year, the Times Free Press published a map showing the number of permit holders by ZIP code and city within Hamilton County. The map did not include names and addresses.
In 2009, The Commercial Appeal compared the state's list of permit holders with criminal court records, finding more than 70 people with permits who had histories of criminal violence.