Tennessee Gun Laws: An Overview


Each state maintains a unique set of laws, statutes, and ordinances. Americans who observe their rights to own and bear arms are responsible for knowing current gun laws for each state, and how the laws pertain to them. Some states have tighter restrictions than others and the laws change periodically. It’s essential to know state and federal laws. If you live in the state of Tennessee, here is an overview of the gun laws for 2022. to equip you with a sound knowledge base for legal possession and use of firearms.

Tennessee and gun laws

The Safe Tennessee Project advises that Tennessee is defined as a shall-issue state about its gun laws. The term is defined as the requirement for residents to adhere to licensing standards as described by state authorities to obtain permits to legally carry firearms in public. Shall issue is also defined as the right to carry. Tennessee differs from some other states that are referred to as May issue states, which refers to their licensing standards. In those states, law enforcement maintains discretion over who is granted gun permits. People who apply for permits in May Issue states must meet minimum requirements that may require proof of good character and proof of the need for publicly carrying a gun. As we compare these differences it becomes apparent that Tennessee supports the rights of its residents who otherwise qualify, to bear arms.

Pros and cons of Shall Carry states

Tennessee’s Shall Carry status has its advantages for residents who prefer to publicly carry a gun. It’s easier to obtain a permit to legally carry firearms, but there is a tradeoff. The homicide rates involving firearms are higher statistically in Shall Carry states. If you’re nervous about firearms then Tennessee may not be the best choice for your permanent home. Residents enjoy more freedom in owning and carrying firearms than in any other state.

Gun control laws in Tennessee

Find Law confirms that the gun laws in Tennessee are mild compared to most other states. There is no waiting period when purchasing a firearm in Tennessee. Most other states mandate a minimum of a three to the ten-day waiting period between purchase and the delivery of a firearm. Although it’s a Shall Carry state with fewer restrictions on gun control, laws exist with rules and regulations for legal possession and use of firearms. Some types of firearms are illegal. Some residents may not be eligible to carry or own a firearm. It’s a call based on criminal and personal history.

Tennessee requirements for purchasing guns

The State of Tennessee does not mandate a permit or license to purchase or own a gun. Owners are not required to register firearms. Concealed weapons are a different matter. The State of Tennessee mandates a background check for all residents who purchase a gun from a licensed dealer. It’s a basic background check.

Is Tennessee an Open Carry State?

Tennessee state gun laws allow persons who are active members of the military of the United States or an honorably discharged veteran of the military, at least 18 years old and older to possess a concealed carry license. All other persons not involved in the military must be at least 21 years old. All persons with a concealed carry license are required to carry to license on their person always times when carrying a firearm. They are required to show it to law enforcement officers when asked. Only people not convicted of a criminal offense or charged with some misdemeanors or a felony may possess a gun.

Who cannot own or possess a firearm?

Tennessee Gun Laws prohibit anyone subject to an order of protection or those who are prohibited from possessing a firearm under federal law or under other states from possessing a firearm. People convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor, and anyone convicted of a violent felony crime, who attempted to commit such crime, or committed a felony with a deadly weapon may not legally own or possess a firearm. People who have a dishonorable discharge from the military renounced their US citizenship has two or more DUI convictions within ten years may not carry a gun. Neither can those who are patients in a drug or alcohol rehab program within three years cannot possess a firearm. Individuals who are known to use illegal drugs or who are addicted to alcohol or other controlled substances with unlawful use may not possess a concealed carry permit. People with a history of mental illness or who’ve been in a mental institution, who have a mental defect requiring a conservator, or who have a developmental disability or rather mental incapacities within 7 years are not eligible for a concealed carry license. Fugitives from justice cannot obtain a concealed carry permit either. Tennessee does maintain a long list of applicable gun laws and restrictions. Tennessee does allow non-permit concealed carry for some circumstances.

Is there reciprocity for Tennessee gun laws?

The State of Tennesse grants reciprocity through recognition of valid firearms permit weapons permit or handgun permit issued by another state as long as the holder conforms with Tennessee laws for possession and certification. Tennessee authorizes out-of-state permit holders to carry a handgun in the state. Most other states have more rigorous requirements and do not offer reciprocity. In this regard, Tennessee is more lenient with residents from other states with firearm permits. Thirteen states do not recognize Tennessee issued gun permits. Nonreciprocal states are Connecticut, California, Illinois, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Jersey, Minnesota, New York, Rhode Island, Oregon, Washington State, and Vermont.

How does permitless carry work in Tennessee?

The Criminal Defense Lawyer website advises that the laws changed for permitless carry in Tennessee. Adults may carry a handgun openly or concealed without a permit if he or she meets the minimum requirements. As of July 1, 2021, anyone who is not a prohibited person may carry if they are at least 21 years old, an active military member, or an honorably discharged veteran, and in a location where it’s lawful to possess a gun.

Enhanced Carry and Concealed Carry Permits in Tennessee

People eligible for permitless carry may complete an application for an enhanced concealed handgun and carry permits. The permits allow holders to carry guns in some places where permitless carry is prohibited. These locations include government and private buildings allowing permit only concealed firearms, state and local campgrounds, nature trails and greenways, public parks not used for school activities, and authorized college and university employees.

What are the penalties for unlawfully carrying?

Anyone who is discovered carrying a gun unlawfully is subject to penalties. Those without the proper permit or who carry with the intent to go armed and are ineligible for permitless carry will face misdemeanor charges. Persons who violate provisions because they are carrying in a prohibited area or if they are a prohibited person, face harsher penalties. Individuals who commit a single violation could be charged with a Class C misdemeanor. Two or more violations increase the harshness of penalties to a Class B misdemeanor. A Class A misdemeanor is issued when gun holders commit a violation in a public space where others are present.

What are prohibited places for gun carry in Tennessee?

The State of Tennessee has written laws about where it’s not legal to carry a gun with or without a permit. Some places are off-limits for gun carry unless you are an on-duty law enforcement officer or other authorized personnel such as a security guard. You may not carry a gun on a property that posts a sign that says “No Firearms Allowed.” Guns are not allowed in any room where judicial proceedings take place. Guns are not allowed on school property, school buses, school grounds, and properties, K-12 public and private schools, colleges, and universities. It’s illegal to carry a gun into a bar while you’re drinking alcohol. You may not possess a gun if you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Most federal properties prohibit possession of firearms. The list includes airports, post officers, courthouses, and federally owned, rented, or leased spaces. It’s illegal to possess a firearm or any other weapon, to use to commit a crime.

Can you carry a firearm in a motor vehicle?

The Open Carry law in Tennessee is more lenient than in many other states. A person who isn’t prohibited from owning a firearm and who lawfully possesses a motor vehicle may carry the firearm in the vehicle, but it must not be carried on the person. It is also legal for qualified gun owners to possess ammunition in a motor vehicle. As long as the possession is lawful it is okay to carry a gun in your car or truck.

Preemption in Tennessee

Tennessee maintains a preemption statute that prevents its localities from introducing new laws concerning gun control. Wikipedia confirms that cities or counties may not impose additional laws about guns for their jurisdictions. Tennessee stands firm in its protection of laws regulating the manufacture, use, ownership, possession, sale, acquisition, gift, registration, storage, transportation, purchase, transfer, and ownership of firearms and ammunition. Tennessee law preempts existing local laws within the jurisdiction of the State including regulations or ordinances about guns, their components, and ammunition. Tennessee laws make four exceptions that allow localities to regulate employee firearms on the job, discharging firearms within locality boundaries, shooting range locations, and state and federal law enforcement of firearms and ammunition regulation.

Tennessee gun laws change frequently

It’s the responsibility of all persons in the state of Tennessee to do their research and stay up on changes in the state’s gun laws. An old law on the books once required the city police chief or country sheriff to issue a purchase permit to buy a handgun. The old law also required a fifteen-day waiting period. The outdated law is no longer in existence. Tennessee takes gun ownership under consideration as a second amendment right and some counties have adopted resolutions as Second Amendment Sanctuary. Tennessee passed a law declaring its boundaries as a sanctuary.

Are some guns illegal in Tennessee?

Tennessee is generally liberal when allowing ownership and possession of gun types. State law does provide a few exceptions. It prohibits the possession of short-barrel rifles and shotguns and machine guns. Compared to some other State laws, Tennessee allows possession of most other legal firearms. It’s best to consult with the current regulations to determine the legal length of the barrel for shotguns and rifles.

Final thoughts

Tennessee gun laws are among the most relaxed in the United States, but there are many laws and statutes regulating gun ownership, possession, and use. Some restrictions and limitations may apply. It’s up to everyone to investigate current gun laws to ensure that they comply with current regulations. Tennessee is a state that actively supports the Second Amendment and its authorization for American citizens to own and bear arms. It’s one of the most liberal for allowing open and concealed carry. There are some places where you cannot carry a firearm, and under some circumstances, you’ll need to leave your firearm locked in your vehicle. Tennessee is a Shall Carry State that enforces the gun control laws in place, but it is the least restrictive and most open state that offers itself as a sanctuary for enforcing Second Amendment gun rights. It’s not the most comfortable place for people who fear firearms or have strong feelings about gun control. Gun ownership is a part of the culture that most people experience from early in their youth. Many Tennessee families own guns and teach their children responsible behaviors around firearms. The downside is that the statistics for homicides committed with firearms are higher. On the plus side, most people can freely possess firearms legally for self-protection, recreation, and hunting, without breaking laws.

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