In October of 1996, the Department of Safety began issuing handgun carry permits pursuant to 1996 Public Chapter 905. Previous to this change, handgun carry permits were issued by local sheriffs’ offices. Handgun carry permits are no longer issued by sheriffs’ offices. The Department of Safety has the sole responsibility to issue handgun carry permits. T.C.A. § 39-17-1351.
When the Department of Safety receives a handgun carry permit application, the department is required to send a copy of the application to the sheriff of the county in which the applicant resides. Within 30 days of receiving an application, the sheriff is required to provide the department with any information concerning the truthfulness of the applicant's answers to the eligibility requirements set forth in T.C.A. § 39-17-1351(c) that is within the knowledge of the sheriff. T.C.A. § 39-17-1351(g)(2). This does not require the sheriff to conduct a full criminal background investigation, only a check of local records within the sheriff’s office.
As part of the process of applying for a handgun carry permit, an applicant is required to provide two full sets of classifiable fingerprints at the time the application is filed with the department. The applicant may have his or her fingerprints taken by the department at the time the application is submitted, or the applicant may have his or her fingerprints taken at any sheriff's office and submit the fingerprints to the department along with the application and other supporting documents. The sheriff may charge a fee not to exceed $5 for taking the applicant's fingerprints. At the time an applicant's fingerprints are taken either by the department or a sheriff's office, the applicant is required to present a photo identification. If the person requesting fingerprinting is not the same person as the person whose picture appears on the photo identification, the department or sheriff must refuse to take the applicant’s fingerprints. T.C.A. § 39-17-1351(d)(1).