FIND GUN LAWS BY STATE

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR Bryan L. Ciyou is a trial and appellate attorney at the Indianapolis law firm of Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. He earned his BA with distinction and graduated through the honors program, along with his JD,... Read More

Tennessee Gun Laws

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Introduction

Tennessee is surrounded by many states including Kentucky, Missouri, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, and Virginia. While Nashville is the state capital, Memphis is the most populated city in Tennessee. Open carry is legal in Tennessee with a valid license to carry.

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A. State Constitution

Regarding the right to bear arms, the Tennessee Constitution states:

“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.”

[http://gunla.ws/tn1]

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B. Scope of Preemption

The controlling language of Tennessee’s preemption statute is set forth as follows:

“(a) Except as provided in § 39-17-1311(d), which allows counties and municipalities to prohibit the possession of handguns while within or on a public park, natural area, historic park, nature trail, campground, forest, greenway, waterway or other similar public place that is owned or operated by a county, a municipality or instrumentality thereof, no city, county, or urban-county government shall occupy any part of the field of regulation of the transfer, ownership, possession or transportation of firearms, ammunition or components of firearms or combinations thereof; provided, that the provisions of this section shall be prospectively only and shall not affect the validity of any ordinance or resolution lawfully enacted before April 8, 1986.” Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-1314.

[http://gunla.ws/tn2]

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C. Reciprocal Carry

By statute, Tennessee will recognize another state’s license to carry if that state recognizes Tennessee’s license:

“(1) A facially valid handgun permit, firearms permit, weapons permit or license issued by another state shall be valid in this state according to its terms and shall be treated as if it is a handgun permit issued by this state; provided, however, the provisions of this subsection (r) shall not be construed to authorize the holder of any out-of-state permit or license to carry, in this state, any firearm or weapon other than a handgun. (2) For a person to lawfully carry a handgun in this state based upon a permit or license issued in another state, the person must be in possession of the permit or license at all times the person carries a handgun in this state.”

Note: Tennessee is willing to recognize the handgun carry permits or equivalents of any state that issues them, not just the ones with which it has entered into reciprocity agreements.

Anyone contemplating reciprocal carry should check with the official list maintained by the Tennessee Commissioner of Safety at the point in time the reciprocal carry is to occur. States add and delete states with reciprocity agreements over time.  Tennessee’s reciprocity agreement can be viewed here:

[http://gunla.ws/tn3]

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D. NFA Items

Tennessee permits ownership of all NFA items, provided they are legally obtained pursuant to federal law. It is legal to use suppressors for hunting. CLEOs are required to sign an application for the transfer of any item regulated under the NFA within 15 days if the applicant is not prohibited by law from receiving it. [http://gunla.ws/n17s]

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E. Carrying Firearms in Vehicles

Tennessee permits anyone who may legally possess a firearm to carry a firearm in a motor vehicle without a permit.

[http://gunla.ws/tn4]

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F. Self-defense Laws

Tennessee has both Castle Doctrine and SYG laws. There is no duty to retreat from any place You have a legal right to be.  You may use force, including deadly force, in defense of yourself or others if You reasonably believe it is necessary to prevent imminent death, SBI, or to stop the unlawful & forcible entry into a dwelling, place of business, or occupied motor vehicle.

[http://gunla.ws/tn5]

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G. Criminal Provisions

Under Tennessee law, a license to carry a handgun does not carry in any of the following places or circumstances, even when the license was issued by Tennessee, or a person is carrying pursuant to a reciprocity agreement between his or her state of license and Tennessee:

  • While inside any room in which judicial proceedings are in progress
  • In a public or private school building, bus, campus, grounds, recreational area, athletic field, or any other property owned or used by a board of education, school, college, or university board of trustees, regents or directors for the administration of the educational institution, or any other facility where school sponsored athletic events are conducted
  • While under the influence of alcohol or any controlled substance
  • Where any individual, corporation, business entity, or local, state or federal government entity owned, operated or managed property has posted notice prohibiting the carrying of a concealed firearm
  • In airports, military institutions, and other areas prohibited by federal law
  • It is legal to store a loaded firearm in Your car even without a permit to carry
  • Permit holders may store firearms and ammunition in their vehicles parked at work so long as they are locked up out of sight and secured within the vehicle
  • Full time employees of public universities may carry on property owned, operated, or used by their university, provided they have a valid carry permit
  • Public universities are prohibited from taking any adverse action against an employee or student who lawfully transports or stores firearms or ammunition in their parked motor vehicle
  • The governing entity of all private K-12 schools and private universities may develop a policy on handguns that either permits or prohibits people with valid carry permits from carrying on school property.

For a list of places where carrying firearms is prohibited, see:

[http://gunla.ws/tn6]

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H. Duty to Inform Officers

No. You must have a valid license/permit to carry in Your possession any time you carry a concealed pistol. You are not required to inform a LEO that You are carrying a firearm immediately on contact, but if a LEO requests, You must display Your license/permit. [http://gunla.ws/n17s]

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I. Do “No Gun Signs” Have the Force of Law?

Yes. “No Guns” signs have the force of law. If a property or establishment has a “No Guns” sign or the person in lawful possession communicates to You that guns are not allowed, You are prohibited from carrying on the property or into the establishment. Carrying a firearm onto a property or into a building that has such a sign posted is a Class B misdemeanor. [http://gunla.ws/d2y8]

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J. Carry in Restaurants That Serve Alcohol

Yes, if you possess a valid concealed handgun license/permit. You are allowed to carry into any establishment that serves alcohol, including bars, unless there is a “No Guns Sign,” then you are prohibited from carrying into the establishment. You are prohibited from carrying while You consume alcohol or are under the influence of alcohol.

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K. Open Carry

Open Carry of loaded handguns is only legal for those with a valid permit/license to carry a concealed firearm. Places as listed in the “Criminal Provisions” above apply to those who open carry. Long guns may only be carried unloaded unless You are hunting in an approved area.  [http://gunla.ws/z42z]

Note: 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 the protection order was issued.

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FIND GUN LAWS BY STATE

Table of Contents

About the author
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Bryan L. Ciyou is a trial and appellate attorney at the Indianapolis law firm of Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. He earned his BA with distinction and graduated through the honors program, along with his JD,... Read More