What are Tennessee Gun Laws?

Tennessee has some of the most lenient gun laws in the United States, but there are several wrinkles within the law that every gun owner in the state needs to know about and be prepared to encounter with local law enforcement.

Essentially the second amendment, the right to keep and bear arms, is largely upheld throughout Tennessee, but the state government has the power to regulate any person’s wearing of arms with a view in order to prevent crime.

The prevention of crime could be interpreted in many different ways and is relatively vague, especially because no one needs a permit to purchase a handgun or needs to have any of their guns registered or licensed. The only extenuating regulation in Tennessee is that you need a permit to carry a handgun, so this is naturally where law enforcement gets strict.

It’s important to understand that in general it is illegal to carry a loaded long gun in public in Tennessee, but there are several loopholes that have come up through recent laws. As of 2014, a person can keep a loaded rifle or handgun in their vehicles without a permit, and as of July 2017 someone who is protected by a protection order can carry a handgun without a license for 60 days after the protection order is issued.

Tennessee Gun Law Infographic

We created an easy to understand infographic to help you determine the laws:

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Main Provisions

Tennessee’s gun laws, as stated in T.C.A. 39-17-part 13, are generally lenient, but just like every other state there are several restrictions that gun enthusiasts should know about.

The arms that are illegal in Tennessee include machine guns, short-barreled shotguns, silencers and explosive weapons.

For every gun purchase in Tennessee the consumer must pay $10 in order for a background to be conducted, and another interesting provision in Tennessee is that there is no waiting period for purchases like in many other states.

Just like everywhere there are certain people who can not own guns in Tennessee, and these people include convicted felons, fugitives, those of unsound mind, minors, alcoholics, drug addicts and anyone convicted of the illegal sale of alcohol.

Off-limits Places

If you have a handgun carry permit in Tennessee there are many places in which you still are not allowed to carry a firearm including a public establishment where alcohol is served, if you’re drinking. There is a zero tolerance for alcohol use and gun carrying at a maximum of 0.0% BAC in Tennessee, so it’s legal to bring a gun to a bar but you can not drink while at the bar, or have had anything to drink anywhere for that matter.

It is also illegal to carry a firearm around school zones, any room where a judicial proceeding is taking place, some parks and more interestingly any area or building that has a posted notice prohibiting weapons as long as the prohibition sign is plainly visible to the average person entering the area or property.


As described above, carrying firearms in Tennessee is much less regulated than in many states across the country, but there are still many regulations that all handgun owners need to know about, including the phrase with the intent to go armed.

It may be sometimes difficult to prove with such lenient laws, but state prosecutors must prove that a defendant had the intent to go armed in many unlawful carrying charges. The following are successful defenses for unlawful carrying in Tennessee:

  • If the carrying was not concealed and unloaded and the ammunition for the weapon was not within an immediate vicinity of the person or weapon
  • If the carrying was by a person who is authorized and permitted to carry handguns
  • If the carrying was a person’s residence or place of business
  • If the carrying was a part of hunting or other outdoor recreation
  • If the carrying was a rifle or shotgun being used to protect livestock from predators
  • If the carrying was conducted by any kind of judge or magistrate

Where to Legally Purchase

Although a permit is not required to buy a firearm in Tennessee there are laws requiring dealers to get licensed to be able to sell firearms and conduct the necessary background checks for each customer. Some of the more popular licensed gun stores in Tennessee include Buds Gun Shop and Range in Sevierville, The Outpost Armory in Christiana, The Tennessee Gun Country in Clarksville and the Nashville Armory in Nashville.

How to Apply for a Gun

The first thing you need to do to get a gun is to present your licensed dealer with your identification and the information of the gun you are going to purchase, and this is when the dealer will start filling out the forms for a background check.

Once the dealer completes the firearms transaction record and you sign it then the dealer will take your thumbprint for the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation to conduct the criminal history record on you. This background check costs $10.

It becomes a little more complicated to apply for a Tennessee Handgun Carry Permit, and this is a permit that requires you to fill out a Handgun Permit online, and if the applicant is permitted then the permit will last for eight years and the permittee can carry any handgun he or she owns. As like any other state the permittee must always carry their permit on them while carrying their handgun in public.

If it’s your first time applying for the eight-year permit it costs $100, or you can purchase a lifetime permit for $300 in order to avoid $50 renewal fees every eight years.

Are the Laws Working?

It’s a very sound consensus that Tennessee’s gun laws are quite lenient, and because it is so lenient there can be safe assumptions that these gun laws have lead to Tennessee being the third most dangerous state in America with 608.4 violent crimes per 100,000 people. The only two states Tennessee is behind is Alaska and Nevada, which both have significantly less people living in them.

The truth is that it’s one thing to make it easy to purchase guns in a state like Tennessee, but the recent laws that have been enacted, including the Castle Doctrine, has expanded the ability for unlicensed or non-permitted individuals to legally have handguns and other firearms in their possession in public within the privacy of their vehicles.

Of course it will always be hard for Tennessee’s prosecutor’s to prove an individual had the intent to go armed, and when gun owners have the right to carry loaded handguns and long guns in their cars without permits it’s always going to be difficult for Tennessee’s law enforcement to get guns off the streets and out of the hands of potentially violent individuals.

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