You can buy a stun gun or Taser in Tennessee without a permit, and the state doesn't prohibit carrying or using electric weapons for self-defense. At the same time, however, state and local laws on deadly or dangerous weapons might apply to stun guns and Tasers, depending on how they're used. Read on for details.
Both stun guns and Tasers (a brand name for remote stun guns that shoot small darts from a distance) are considered less-lethal weapons, as they're designed to temporarily immobilize someone with an electrical current. Still, these devices can sometimes cause serious injury or even death, depending on how they're used and on the victim's condition. For instance, someone who's been stunned repeatedly could fall and sustain injuries. Or someone with a heart condition could suffer cardiac arrest after being “tased.”
So even though Tennessee's weapons laws don't specifically refer to stun guns or Tasers, these devices could potentially be covered under state laws on the possession or use of a deadly weapon (discussed below). The state's definition of a deadly weapon includes anything that's capable of causing serious bodily injury or death in the manner of its use or intended use (Tenn. Code § 39-11-106(a)(5)(B) (2019)). That means that in any particular criminal case, it would be up to the jury to decide if a stun gun was a deadly weapon under the circumstances.
It's a Class E felony in Tennessee to carry a deadly weapon if you intend to use it in a crime (Tenn. Code § 39-17-1307(d) (2019)).
If you use or show a deadly weapon while committing certain crimes, like assault or kidnapping, you could be charged with the aggravated version of the crime— meaning you would face felony rather than misdemeanor charges (Tenn. Code §§ 39-13-102, 39-13-304 (2019)).
Local governments in Tennessee may have weapons ordinances that are stricter than state law and could affect your right to carry a stun gun or Taser. For instance, it's a misdemeanor in Memphis and Knoxville to carry any dangerous weapon with the intent to go armed (Memphis Municipal Code § 10-32-2; Knoxville Municipal Code § 19-104 (2019)). If you have any questions about local weapons laws and whether they apply to stun guns or Tasers, you may want to check with your local law enforcement agency or a local lawyer. But if you're facing charges for a crime that involved the possession or use of a stun gun, you should speak with a qualified criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.
Look Out for Legal Changes
States can change their laws at any time. You can use this search tool to find and read the current version of Tennessee codes discussed in this article. Be aware, however, that court decisions may change the interpretation of laws—another reason you may want to consult with a local lawyer .