Gun laws in Tennessee
|Subject/Law||Long guns||Handguns||Relevant Statutes||Notes|
|State Permit to Purchase?||No||No||None||No|
|"Assault weapon" law?||No||No||None||No|
|Magazine Capacity Restriction?||No||No|
|Owner license required?||No||No||None||No|
|Carry permits issued?||No*||Yes||TCA 39-17-1351||Permits are "shall-issue". Concealed or open carry of a handgun is allowed with permit. *Loaded long gun carry is generally illegal. Those with a Handgun Carry Permit(HCP) holders may have loaded long guns in a private vehicle so long as there is not a round in the chamber 39-17-1307(e) There are also other exceptions (like for hunting) listed in 39-17-1307|
|Open carry permitted?||Yes||Yes||§ 39-17-1307, 39-17-1308||Open carry of loaded handguns is permitted for those who have been issued a license to carry. Long guns may only be carried unloaded.|
|State Preemption of local restrictions?||Yes||Yes||39-17-1314||Tennessee is an anomalous State. The Legislature made a loop hole for cities and municipalities with laws in effect prior to April 8, 1986. The local ordinances in effect before April 8, 1986 pre-empt State law see TCA 39-17-1314(a). Local governments may post signs per 39-17-1359 to prohibit carry on government property, just like private property owners.|
|NFA weapons restricted?||No||No||None||On July 1, 2003 public chapter 275 is in effect. It requires the CLEO, chief law enforcement officer, to sign NFA paperwork in 15 days if the applicant is not prohibited from possessing firearms. see TCA 39-17-1361 .|
|Peaceable Journey laws?||No||No||None||Federal rules observed.|
|Self-Defense Law||Yes||Yes||39-11-611||There is not duty to retreat before using deadly force, as long as you are acting lawfully and are in a place you have a right to be in. It is presumed you had a reasonable fear of imminent death or serious bodily injury if someone unlawfully and forcibly enters a residence, business, dwelling or vehicle.|
Places off-limits even with a Handgun Carry Permit
|Public Establishment where Alcoholic Beverages of any type are served||39-17-1321||It is illegal for anyone to possess a handgun while under the influence of alcohol or any other controlled substance. It is lawful to possess a firearm on the premises of a public place where alcoholic beverages are served as long as such individual is not consuming alcoholic beverages.|
|Any room where a judicial proceeding is taking place||39-17-1306||If a proceeding is not taking place in a courtroom, then carry would be legal. If a judicial proceeding is taking place in any room, say a hospital room, then carry would be illegal|
|Schools||39-17-1309||Carry is legal (affirmative defense) if you are entering the property solely to pick up or drop off passengers and you do not remove, utilize or allow to be removed or utilized the weapon from the vehicle. 39-17-1310(4)|
|Some local Public Parks||39-17-1311||If you have a HCP carry in State and local parks is legal by default. However Local governments per 39-17-1311(d) may vote to make carry illegal in the parks under their control. Metro Chattanooga parks are posted as off limits. Metro Nashville parks are off limits, but are not posted. If a local park is being used for a school activity, then it is off-limts per 39-17-1309 during the activity. See TN AG Opinions 09-129 & 09-160.|
|Any area/building/property posted with a notice per 39-17-1359.||39-17-1359||Notice of the prohibition shall be displayed in prominent locations, including all entrances primarily used by persons entering the property, building, or portion of the property or building where weapon possession is prohibited. Either form of notice used shall be of a size that is plainly visible to the average person entering the building, property, or portion of the building or property, posted. The code says the sign must be the international circle and slash symbolizing the prohibition of the item within the circle or the sign must contain wording in English that is "substantially similar" to that used in the code; substantially similar being defined as such: The property is posted under authority of Tennessee law; Weapons or firearms are prohibited on the property, in the building, or on the portion of the property or building that is posted; and Possessing a weapon in an area that has been posted is a criminal offense.
. See TN AG Opinion 07-43
Carrying of Firearms
Tennessee State Constitution, Article I, Section 26, reads:
That the citizens of this state have a right to keep and to bear arms for their common defense; but the Legislature shall have power, by law, to regulate the wearing of arms with a view to prevent crime.
State supreme court rulings and state attorney general opinions interpret Section 26 to mean regulation cannot and should not interfere with the common lawful uses of firearms, including defense of the home and hunting, but should only be aimed at criminal behavior. Andrews v. State (1870) and Glasscock v. Chattanooga (1928) defined the meaning of regulating arms. "Going armed", carrying any sort of weapon for offense or defense in public, is a crime, except carrying a handgun for defense is allowed with a state-issued permit.
A license is required to carry a loaded handgun either openly or concealed. Such permits are issued through the Department of Safety to qualified residents 21 years or older for a 4-year term. Tennessee recognizes any valid, out-of-state permit for carrying a handgun as long as the permittee is not a resident of Tennessee. Nonresidents are not issued permits unless they are regularly employed in the state. Such persons are then required to obtain Tennessee permits even if they have home state permits unless their home state has entered into a reciprocity agreement with Tennessee. Permittees may carry handguns in most areas except civic centers, public recreation buildings & colleges. Businesses or landowners posting "no carry" signs may prohibit gun carry on any portion of their properties.
Persons carrying firearms without recognized permits in public are prohibited from carrying handguns with the "intent to go armed." Intent is derived from the actions of the gun possessor and the state of the firearms in his/her possession. It is a violation of Tennessee law to carry a handgun openly or concealed when loaded with ammunition unless the wearer has a legal Tennessee handgun carry permit.
Under Tennessee law, a handgun, shotgun, or rifle carried by a non-licensed person in a vehicle in Tennessee must be unloaded and in plain view or secured in commercial gun cases. Glove compartment or console box carry is not permitted, and ammunition must be carried separately from the handgun, rifle, or shotgun. Rifles and shotguns carried in a vehicle must remain unloaded and ammunition must be kept separate ("not in the immediate vicinity") of any firearm unless the vehicle operator has a recognized carry permit.
Tennessee allows permittees to possess rifles and shotguns with magazine loaded, but chamber unloaded in vehicles.
Tennessee's Safe Commute Law allows permittees to store their loaded firearms securely in their vehicle on a third party's private property despite any "no firearms" posted signs (it will no longer be considered a crime). The Safe Commute Law does not, however, preempt any employer policy relating to a prohibition against employees carrying firearms on the employer's property.
Tennessee's preemption statute prevents localities from enacting new laws regulating the possession, ownership or transportation of firearms and ammunition. The law grandfathers local ordinances passed before 1986. But most aspects of licensed handgun carry are regulated exclusively by the state.
At one time, Tennessee required a purchase permit for a handgun approved by one's city police chief or county sheriff with a fifteen-day waiting period; that was replaced under the federal Brady Act with the Tennessee Instant Check System (TICS). Handguns in Tennessee are defined as having a barrel length of less than twelve inches see TCA 39-11-106.
- Constitution Of The State Of Tennessee at Tennessee Government Website.
- Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-1308(a)(1)