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||T.C.A. § 39-17-1351||Permits are "shall-issue". Concealed or open carry of a handgun is allowed with permit. *Loaded long gun carry in public is generally illegal, with exceptions for activities such as hunting in approved areas.
As of July 1st 2014, due to the enhanced Castle Doctrine law, a person may carry a loaded handgun or long gun in their private vehicle without a permit.
|Open carry permitted?||Yes||Yes||T.C.A. § 39-17-1307
T.C.A. § 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||T.C.A. § 39-17-1314||State preemption per T.C.A. § 39-17-1314(a). Local governments may post signs per T.C.A. § 39-17-1359 to prohibit carry on government property. Local government may not, however, prohibit firearms in locally owned/operated parks and other recreational areas.|
|NFA weapons restricted?||No||No||None||On July 1, 2003 public chapter 275 is in effect.|
|Shall Certify?||Yes||Yes||T.C.A. § 39-17-1361||Shall certify within 15 days.|
|Peaceable journey laws?||No||No||None||Federal rules observed.|
|Self-defense law||Yes||Yes||T.C.A. § 39-11-611||There is no 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||T.C.A. § 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||T.C.A. § 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||T.C.A. § 39-17-1309
T.C.A. § 39-17-1310
|Possession of any firearm is prohibited on school property outside of a private vehicle. Vehicle transportation of an unloaded firearm without a carry permit is legal on school property if you are a non-student adult and you do not remove, utilize, or allow to be removed or utilized the weapon from the vehicle (T.C.A. § 39-17-1309(c)(1). Vehicle transportation of a loaded firearm secured in the carry permit holder's privately owned vehicle is legal on school property under T.C.A. § 39-17-1313.|
|"Some" Local Public Parks||T.C.A. § 39-17-1311, HB0995||If you have a Handgun Carry Permit, carry in State and local parks is legal by default. 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 Opinion Numbers 09-129 and 09-160.|
|Any area/building/property posted with a notice per T.C.A. § 39-17-1359.||T.C.A. § 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 No 07-43. Notwithstanding T.C.A. § 39-17-1359, vehicle transportation of a loaded firearm is allowed under T.C.A. § 39-17-1313 as long as the firearm is secured in the handgun carry permit holder's privately owned vehicle and is not visible to "ordinary observation".|
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.
Tennessee requires a permit to carry a firearm, whether openly or concealed. Additionally, per Tenn. Code Ann. 39-17-1351 r.(1) a facially valid handgun permit, firearms permit, weapons permit or license issued by another state shall be valid in this state [Tennessee] according to its terms and shall be treated as if it is a handgun permit issued by this state [Tennessee]).
A person possessing a firearm or ammunition in a motor vehicle who is not otherwise prohibited from owning a firearm and is in lawful possession of the motor vehicle is not in violation of the open carry law in Tennessee as long as the firearm is not carried on one's person.
Except for four specific exceptions, Tennessee's preemption statute prevents localities from enacting any new laws regulating the use, purchase, transfer, taxation, manufacture, ownership, possession, carrying, sale, acquisition, gift, devise, licensing, registration, storage, and transportation of firearms and ammunition. The current statute also preempts any existing local law, ordinance or regulation concerning firearms, ammunition or their components. The exceptions allow localities to regulate 1) the carrying of firearms by their employees when acting in the course of the employees employment (except as provided in T.C.A. § 39-17-1313); 2) the discharge of firearms within the boundaries of the locality (except where permitted by State Law); 3) the location of a sport shooting range (except as provided in T.C.A. § 39-17-316 and T.C.A. § 39-3-412) and 4) the enforcement of any state or federal law pertaining to firearms and ammunition. 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 per T.C.A. § 39-11-106(a)(16).
- Lexis Nexis Tennessee Code Annotated (http://www.lexisnexis.com/hottopics/tncode/)
- HB0955 (April 24, 2015) amends TCA Title 39, Chapter 17, Part 13 "HB0995 Bill Information".
- Tennessee Attorney General Opinion No. 09-129 (http://tennessee.gov/attorneygeneral/op/2009/op/op129.pdf)
- Tennessee Attorney General Opinion No. 09-160 (http://tennessee.gov/attorneygeneral/op/2009/op/op160.pdf)
- Tennessee Attorney General Opinion No. 07-43 (http://www.tn.gov/attorneygeneral/op/2007/op/op43.pdf)
- Constitution Of The State Of Tennessee at Tennessee Government Website (http://www.state.tn.us/sos/bluebook/05-06/46-tnconst.pdf).