Firearms possession is legal in Tennessee, provided an individual abides by the state’s open and concealed carry laws. There are exceptions to who can carry and where they can carry, however. Keep reading our blog to learn more about Tennessee’s specific open and concealed carry requirements and when gun possession might be a violation of the law.
Who Is Permitted to Carry Open and Concealed?
Tennessee is a shall-issue state that grants concealed weapons permits at the state level through the Department of Safety & Homeland Security. Tennessee does not require a permit, background check, or firearms registration when buying a handgun, and no permit is required for anyone legally entitled to carry a firearm in their place of residence, place of business, or premises.
Open carry is legal with an Enhanced Tennessee Handgun Carry Permit (EHCP) or without a permit if the gun is unloaded and the ammunition is not in the immediate vicinity. The minimum age requirement for open carry is 18 years old.
Concealed carry is legal for residents with a Tennessee EHCP or a Tennessee Handgun Carry Permit (HCP) and for non-residents with any valid state permit. The minimum age is 21 years old or 18 years old for members of the military. Note that a Tennessee HCP does not cover the concealed carry of weapons besides handguns. Applicants may obtain a concealed HCP by taking a 90-minute online course, and the EHCP requires completion of an 8-hour live training course from certified instructors and allows permittees to carry a gun openly or concealed to more places.
Where Can I Carry?
Open or concealed carry of a handgun is allowed in a motor vehicle, as long as they are allowed to possess a firearm. Individuals are also allowed to carry in bars/restaurants that serve alcohol with a valid concealed carry permit, provided they don’t consume any alcohol.
Be aware that private businesses may restrict or deny concealed carry on their premises. However, you have no duty to reveal to law enforcement that you are carrying a concealed weapon unless the officer asks.
The authority to regulate firearms is reserved to the state, though municipalities may regulate:
- the carrying of firearms by local government employees or independent contractors when acting in the course and scope of their employment or contract; and
- the discharge of firearms within the limits of the city, county, town municipality, or metropolitan government.
When Is It Illegal to Carry?
Tennessee requires a permit to carry a gun, but there are certain people who are not allowed to obtain 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 U.S. 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 DUI within the last 5 years or at least twice in the last 10 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 3 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 7 years), or found to be “a mental defective”;
- are fugitives from justice; or
- have been dishonorably discharged from the military.
The following are situations when an individual may not carry or have a gun in Tennessee:
- without a permit unless you are on your own premises or in your own residence, place of business, or vehicle (does not 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);
- if you’ve been convicted of a felony (unless you’ve been pardoned, had your civil rights restored, or had the conviction expunged);
- with the intent to use it in a crime;
- in any room where judicial proceedings are in progress;
- on school property, including K-12 schools, colleges, and universities (exceptions are approved gun and knife shows, as well as adults who aren't students and keep the weapons in their vehicles without handling them);
- in public recreational areas, parks, playgrounds, or civic centers (exceptions include legal hunting and permitted handguns on certain local or state-owned park areas).
Note that these rules generally don't apply to on-duty law enforcement officers and certain other authorized personnel.
A first-time violation for illegally carrying a firearm without a permit is a Class C misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $500 and up to 30 days in jail. A second or subsequent violation is a Class B misdemeanor carrying a fine of up to $500 and up to 6 months in jail. A violation in a public place with at least one other person present is a Class A misdemeanor, is punishable by a fine of up to $2,500 and up to 11 months and 29 days in jail. Carrying a firearm in public recreational areas is also considered a Class A misdemeanor.
The following violations are charged as Class E felonies, with penalties of up to 6 years in prison and a $3,000 fine:
- 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.
Facing Gun-Related Charges? Let Us Help.
Tennessee permits the open and concealed carry of a firearm, though there are exceptions. If you are facing gun-related charges, whether not possessing a permit or carrying on a restricted premise, contact our attorneys at Eldridge & Blakney for legal representation. Whether arguing for mitigated charges or proving your legal right to carry in your particular situation, our firm can fight for your defense.
Speak with one of our attorneys at Eldridge & Blakney today to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case.