Open and Concealed Gun Carry Laws in Tennessee

Tennessee protects the right to bear arms under Article I, Section 26 of the state constitution, but this does not mean that everyone may carry a gun, or that you may always carry one wherever you like. This article explains the requirements in Tennessee for gun-carry permits and the circumstances when it's illegal to possess or carry a firearm.

People Who May Not Carry a Gun in Tennessee

Tennessee requires a permit to carry a gun (whether openly or concealed). But certain people are not allowed to get a permit, including those who:

  • are younger than 21 years old, unless they're at least 18 and are active-duty military or veterans (retired or honorably discharged)

  • are not United States citizens or legal permanent residents

  • are prohibited under federal law from possessing a firearm

  • are under indictment for or convicted of a felony or a disqualifying misdemeanor

  • have been convicted of a misdemeanor for domestic violence or stalking

  • are subject to a current protective order

  • have been convicted of driving under the influence within the last five years or at least twice in the last ten years

  • are receiving social security disability benefits because of alcohol/drug dependence or mental disabilities

  • are addicted to or illegally using controlled substances or alcohol
  • have recently been in a rehabilitation program or hospitalized for alcohol or drugs (in the last 10 years if it was court-ordered or in the last three years if it was voluntary)

  • have been committed to a psychiatric institution, found by a court to be at risk of serious harm because of mental illness (within the last seven years), or found to be “a mental defective”

  • are fugitives from justice, or

  • have been dishonorably discharged from the military.

(Tenn. Code §§ 39-17-1307, 39-17-1308, 39-17-1351.)

Situations or Circumstances Where Carrying or Possessing a Gun Is Illegal

The following rules govern when you may not carry or have a gun in Tennessee. They generally don't apply to on-duty law enforcement officers and certain other authorized personnel.

  • You may not carry a firearm without a permit unless you're on your own premises or in your own residence, place of business, or vehicle. However, this prohibition doesn’t apply if you’re engaged in a legal activity like hunting, or if the gun is unloaded and not concealed, and there isn’t ammunition in the immediate vicinity.

  • It’s illegal to possess a handgun if you’ve been convicted of a felony (unless you’ve been pardoned, had your civil rights restored, or had the conviction expunged).

  • It's a crime to possess any type of dangerous weapon with the intent to use it in a crime. This prohibition could potentially apply to stun guns or Tasers.

  • You may not intentionally or recklessly carry a gun (or another type of prohibited weapon) in any room where judicial proceedings are in progress.

  • It's against the law to possess or carry any weapon on school property, including K-12 schools, colleges, and universities. Exceptions include approved gun and knife shows, as well as adults who aren't students and keep the weapons in their vehicles without handling them.

  • It's generally illegal to carry a firearm in public recreational areas, parks, playgrounds, or civic centers. Exceptions include legal hunting and permitted handguns on certain local or state-owned park areas.

(Tenn. Code §§ 39-17-1306, 39-17-1307, 39-17-1308, 39-17-1309, 39-17-1310, 39-17-1311, 39-17-1351.)

Penalties for Gun Carry Violations

A first violation for illegally carrying a firearm without a permit is a Class C misdemeanor; the penalty is a fine of up to $500 and/or up to 30 days in jail. A second or subsequent violation is a Class B misdemeanor, with a fine of up to $500 and/or up to six months in jail. A violation in a place open to the public with at least one other person present is a Class A misdemeanor, which incurs a fine of up to $2,500 and/or up to 11 months and 29 days in jail. Carrying a firearm in public recreational areas is also a Class A misdemeanor.

The following violations are all Class E felonies, carrying penalties of up to $3,000 and/or up to six years in prison:

  • illegally carrying a weapon on school property or in a room where judicial proceedings are taking place
  • possessing a handgun if you’ve been convicted of a felony, and
  • possessing any dangerous weapon with the intent to use it in a crime.

(Tenn. Code §§ 39-17-1306, 39-17-1307, 39-17-1309, 39-17-1311, 40-35-111.)

Getting Legal Help

As you can see, the penalties for violating gun carry laws can be serious. If you have any questions about whether you are allowed to carry a gun in Tennessee, or if you are facing charges for a gun violation, consult a qualified criminal defense lawyer.

Updated May 29, 2019

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