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Tennessee Gun Control Laws

The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees the right of U.S. citizens to own firearms, but states are free to establish certain limits to how guns are purchased and carried. While Tennessee gun control laws are relatively mild, the state requires background checks for gun purchases from licensed dealers and has some other limited restrictions.

The main provisions of Tennessee's gun control laws can be found in the following chart.

Relevant Statutes (Laws)

Tennessee Code, Sections 39-17-1301 through 39-17-1366

Illegal Arms

With a few exceptions, Tennessee prohibits the possession of machine guns and short-barrel rifles, and shotguns.

Waiting Period

Tennessee does not have a waiting period between purchase and delivery of a firearm.

Who May Not Own

Tennessee law prohibits people from possessing a firearm if they:
  • Have been convicted of a felony crime of violence, an attempt to commit a felony crime of violence, or a felony involving the use of a deadly weapon
  • Have been convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence
  • Are subject to an order of protection or are prohibited from possessing a firearm under any other state or federal law
  • Are under 18 years of age
Tennessee also prohibits anyone with any felony conviction from possessing a handgun.

License Required?

Tennessee does not require a license or permit to own or purchase a gun and does not require owners to register firearms.

Concealed Carry License Required?

Tennessee allows anyone older than 21 to carry a handgun without a permit in public as long as the gun is lawfully possessed and the person is lawfully present in the place they are carrying the gun. A person may still obtain a permit if they want to conceal carry in a state that has reciprocity with Tennessee

Open Carried Allowed?

Open carry is legal for people 21 and older or people 18 to 20 who are in the United States armed forces or are honorably discharged from the military.

Eligibility for a Concealed Carry License

State residents may obtain a concealed carry permit if they want the ability to conceal carry in a state that recognizes a permit from another state. To obtain a concealed carry permit in Tennessee, a person must:
  • Be at least 21 years old or at least 18 years old and an active member of the United States military or honorably discharged from the military
  • Not have been convicted of a criminal offense or currently charged with a felony or certain misdemeanors
  • Not be a fugitive from justice
  • Not be an unlawful user of or addicted to alcohol or any controlled substance
  • Not have been a patient in a rehabilitation program or hospital for alcohol or drug addiction pursuant to a court order within ten years
  • Not have been a voluntary patient in a rehabilitation program or hospital for alcohol or drug addiction within three years
  • Not have been convicted of driving under the influence two or more times within ten years
  • Not have been adjudicated as a mental defective: hospitalized in a mental institution; appointed a conservator by reason of a mental defect; judicially determined to be disabled by reason of mental illness, developmental disability, or another mental incapacity; and found by a court to pose an immediate substantial likelihood of serious harm within 7 years
  • Not be unlawfully present in the United States
  • Not have been dishonorably discharged from the armed forces
  • Not have renounced their United States citizenship
  • Not be receiving social security disability benefits by reason of alcohol dependence, drug dependence or mental disability

Machine Gun Laws

Machine guns are prohibited in Tennessee unless a machine gun complies with one of the limited exceptions for machine gun ownership under federal law.

Penalties for Illegal Firearm Possession

  • Sentencing ranges for firearm offenses vary depending on the offense. Some firearm possession offenses are misdemeanors, but others are serious felonies.
  • A misdemeanor's punishment carries a maximum punishment of 1 year and a $2,500 fine.
  • On the other end of the sentencing range, possessing a machine gun or sawed-off shotgun or rifle is a Class E felony punishable by imprisonment for a term of 1 to 6 years and up to a $3,000 fine.

Penalties for Illegal Possession on or Near School Grounds

  • It is illegal to possess or carry, whether openly or concealed, a firearm in any school building or bus, on any school campus, grounds, recreation area, athletic field, or any other property owned, operated, or while in use by any board of education, school, college or university.
  • If the offender carries the firearm with an intent to go armed, it is a Class E felony and is punishable by imprisonment for a term of 1 to 6 years and up to a $3,000 fine.
  • If the offender did not have the intent to go armed, it is a Class B misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for a term up to 6 months and a fine up to $500.

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Research the Law

Tennessee Gun Control Laws: Related Resources

Facing Gun-Related Charges? Consult an Attorney Today

While the Second Amendment protects the right of law-abiding citizens to own and bear firearms, there are certain limits imposed at both the state and federal levels. If you have been charged with a gun-related crime, even if you believe you were wrongly charged, it's in your best interests to contact a criminal defense attorney licensed in your state.

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