Under the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, individuals in this country have the right to bear arms. Generally, to purchase and possess a firearm, the person needs to obtain a permit. Without the license, or if the individual has certain restrictions, they cannot legally have a gun.
What Is the Unlawful Carrying or Possession of a Weapon Law?
Under Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-1307, specific people are prohibited from owning or possessing firearms. If such a person is caught with a weapon, they could be accused of violating this law and could be charged with a misdemeanor or a felony.
Restrictions Because of Felony Convictions
Having a conviction for a specific felony could result in a ban from firearm possession.
The felonies that result in a revocation of gun rights include:
- Crimes of violence,
- Offenses involving the use of a deadly weapon, and
- Felony drug offenses
If a person was convicted of one of the offenses mentioned above, they could be charged with a Class B (for crimes of violence and felonies where a firearm was used) or a Class C (for drug offenses) felony.
A person convicted of any other felony offense could be charged with a Class E felony. However, if the judgment was pardoned or expunged, or the individual’s rights were restored, they would not be considered violating the unlawful carrying or possessing of a weapon law.
Restrictions Because of Misdemeanors and Certain Court Orders
Felony convictions aren’t the only types of offenses that could bar a person from possessing a firearm. Specific misdemeanors and court orders could also result in this restriction.
Under Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-1307(f)(1), a person commits unlawful possession of a weapon if they were:
- Convicted of a misdemeanor domestic violence offense as defined by federal law,
- Under a protection order that complies with federal law, or
- Not allowed to possess a firearm in any other state or prohibited from doing so under federal law
Increase in Unlawful Possession of Guns
Recently, law enforcement officials in Tennessee have said they are seeing an alarming rise in the number of crimes committed with guns stolen from vehicles. In September of 2019, officers found over 1,500 people who were unlawfully carrying guns. Of those weapons, 549 had been reported stolen.
Metro Police Commander Terrence Graves said that many people are illegally getting their hands on guns by looking for vehicles with windows that are slightly opened or doors that are unlocked.
Many of the stolen guns are found at crime scenes. For instance, a young man was charged with reckless homicide for fatally shooting his friend with a stolen weapon. In a separate incident, a teen shot himself in the shoulder with a firearm that was reported stolen in 2018. He was charged with unlawful gun possession.
Defenses for Unlawful Possession
Under Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-1308, there are various defenses for unlawfully possessing or carrying a weapon. For instance, it’s not a violation of the law if a person has an unloaded rifle, shotgun, or handgun on them, and the ammunition is not nearby.
Additionally, if the person is authorized to have a firearm, they can legally have one at their:
- Place of residence,
- Business, or
The defenses listed in this statute do not apply to individuals convicted of felony offenses described in Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-1307(b)(1).
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