Gun laws in Tennessee

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Location of Tennessee in the United States

Gun laws in Tennessee regulate the sale, possession, and use of firearms and ammunition in the state of Tennessee in the United States.

Summary tables[edit]

Subject/Law Long guns Handguns Relevant Statutes Notes
State permit required to purchase? No No None No
Firearm registration? No No None No
Assault weapon law? No No None No
Magazine capacity restriction? No No
Owner license required? No No None No
Permit required for concealed carry? N/A Yes T.C.A. § 39-17-1351[1] Permits are "shall-issue". Concealed or open carry of a handgun is allowed with permit.

As of July 1, 2014, due to the enhanced Castle Doctrine law, a person may keep a loaded handgun or long gun in their private vehicle without a permit.[2]

As of July 1, 2017, persons who can legally possess/purchase a firearm and are protected by a protection order may carry a handgun without a license for 60 days from the date of the protection order being issued.[3][4]

As of 2019, a new carry permit was created and the existing permit was reclassified as an enhanced carry permit. The new carry permit is the same as the existing permit with the following exceptions: 1. it allows for concealed carry only, no open carry; 2. is not valid for campus carry; 3. training requirement can be completed via hunter education course or online video.[5]

Permit required for open carry? N/A Yes T.C.A. § 39-17-1307
T.C.A. § 39-17-1308[1]
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[1] State preemption per T.C.A. § 39-17-1314(a).[1] Local governments may post signs per T.C.A. § 39-17-1359[1] to prohibit carry on government property. Local government may not, however, prohibit firearms in locally owned/operated parks and other recreational areas.[6]
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[1] 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.
Background checks required for private sales? No No None

Places off-limits even with a Handgun Carry Permit

Location Relevant Statutes Notes/Exceptions
Public Establishment where Alcoholic Beverages of any type are served T.C.A. § 39-17-1321[1] 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. The allowable BAC for a handgun carry permit holder in public possession of a loaded firearm is exactly 0.0%, zero tolerance. Blood tests can establish intoxication by narcotics. Peaceable journey laws apply, and if an HCP holder has a drink, it is allowable to unload the firearm and lock it in the trunk of the vehicle, provided that the driver is under 0.08% BAC.
Any room where a judicial proceeding is taking place T.C.A. § 39-17-1306[1] 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
T.C.A. § 39-17-1313[1] T.C.A. § 49-7-163
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).[1] Per T.C.A. § 39-17-1313, a student with a valid handgun carry permit may have loaded firearm in a vehicle, as long as the firearm is locked in a container, glove box, or trunk, and is not utilized or removed.

Tenn. Code Ann. § 49-7-163 prohibits post-secondary institutions from taking "any adverse or disciplinary action against an employee or student of the postsecondary institution solely for such person's transportation and storage of a firearm or firearm ammunition in compliance with § 39-17-1313 while on or using a parking area located on property owned, used, or operated by the postsecondary institution."

"Some" Local Public Parks T.C.A. § 39-17-1311,[1] HB0995[6] If you have a Handgun Carry Permit, carry in State and local parks is legal by default. The final bill includes language stating that someone with a handgun permit may not be within the "immediate vicinity" of a school-sponsored park event, though it does not provide a clear definition of "immediate vicinity." per 39-17-1311[1] during the activity. See TN AG Opinion Numbers 09-129[7] and 09-160.[8]
Any area/building/property posted with a notice per T.C.A. § 39-17-1359.[1] T.C.A. § 39-17-1359[1] 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.[9] Notwithstanding T.C.A. § 39-17-1359,[1] vehicle transportation of a loaded firearm is allowed under T.C.A. § 39-17-1313[1] 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[edit]

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.[10]

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 18 years old if the applicant is active duty, reservist, guardsman, or honorably discharged from their branch of service, DD-214 must mention 'pistol qualification' in order to be exempt from 8 hour safety course must have a valid military ID. The length of the term for the initial license is determined by the age of the applicant. If renewed properly and on time, the license is renewed every 8 years. 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 and colleges. Businesses or landowners posting "no carry" signs may prohibit gun carry on any portion of their properties.

Carrying Handguns[edit]

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]).

Vehicle Transportation[edit]

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).[1]

Some counties have adopted Second Amendment sanctuary resolutions.[11]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q Lexis Nexis Tennessee Code Annotated (
  2. ^ "New Tennessee law allows gun owners to keep loaded firearms in vehicle". Retrieved 2016-09-27.
  3. ^ NRA-ILA. "NRA-ILA | Tennessee: Governor Signs Multiple Pro-Gun Bills into Law". NRA-ILA. Retrieved 2017-06-04.
  4. ^ "SENATE BILL 983/HOUSE BILL 752" (PDF).
  5. ^ NRA-ILA. "NRA-ILA | Tennessee: Governor Bill Lee Signs Self-Defense Legislation into Law". NRA-ILA. Retrieved 2019-06-06.
  6. ^ a b HB0955 (April 24, 2015) amends TCA Title 39, Chapter 17, Part 13 "HB0995 Bill Information".
  7. ^ Tennessee Attorney General Opinion No. 09-129 (
  8. ^ Tennessee Attorney General Opinion No. 09-160 (
  9. ^ Tennessee Attorney General Opinion No. 07-43 (
  10. ^ Constitution Of The State Of Tennessee at Tennessee Government Website (
  11. ^ "Blount County is now a Second Amendment sanctuary county". Retrieved 2019-06-02.