Knoxville senator files bill to reimburse gun safety course fees

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — SB0021 would knock $30 off the cost for someone taking a first-time gun safety course.

“I actually knew a childhood friend that was killed by a gun when I was growing up, and he was about middle school age,” said Sen. Becky Duncan Massey (R-Knoxville). “His sister is still a good friend of mine.”

Massey sponsored the legislation. It’d reimburse people who take a course at a local gun store with the $30, which is expected to mostly or completely cover the cost.

“We just wanted to make sure that money wasn’t a deterrent if someone was going to be using guns in our state,” Massey said. “We wanted to give them the opportunity to take the gun safety courses.” 

Last year, she sponsored nearly the exact same bill, though it was more voucher-based than reimbursement-based. It had bipartisan support before it got tied up financially.

“There was some confusion because we were told there was funding for it, but then they didn’t see the appropriation,” Massey said. “It really just got caught up in confusion about whether it’s funded or not.”

Fast forward to now, and she believes the language is clear in the bill. But not everyone is on board.

“The Tennessee Firearms Association (TFA), we opposed that concept last year, and we will oppose it again this year,” TFA Executive Director John Harris said.

He said he’s not against gun safety, but he doesn’t think the state should pay for it.

“It raises the question of, what’s the objective, what’s the agenda for these legislators to even offer this,” Harris said. “I mean, is it a solution in search of a problem, almost?”

Instead of the state, he’d like to see more private offerings of free or cheap firearm safety courses.

“There are organizations out there that will give you these safety courses if you can’t afford it,” Harris said. “Just as a charity, they’ll give them for nothing.”

Though it does have bipartisan support, it doesn’t always mean it’ll pass – like last year.

“You never know until you get in the middle of it,” Massey said. “People read one sentence and may cause them a personal concern that you didn’t think about.”

In last year’s bill, Massey and co-sponsor Rep. Sabi ‘Doc’ Kumar (R-Springfield) requested $1 million from the Handgun Permit Division. Massey said most of that would come from permit fees from gun sales.

“Part comes from permit fees that they presently have,” she said. “So, it’s not a guaranteed thing, but we’re going to make the effort to pass it, and I don’t really see a problem necessarily.”