Local Authority to Regulate Firearms in Tennessee

Posted on Tuesday, September 1st, 2015

Tennessee Code Annotated § 39-17-1314(a) states that “the general assembly preempts the whole field of the regulation of firearms, ammunition, or components of firearms or ammunition, or combinations thereof including, but not limited to, the use, purchase, transfer, taxation, manufacture, ownership, possession, carrying, sale, acquisition, gift, devise, licensing, registration, storage, and transportation thereof, to the exclusion of all county, city, town, municipality, or metropolitan government law, ordinances, resolutions, enactments or regulation. No county, city, town, municipality, or metropolitan government nor any local agency, department, or official shall occupy any part of the field regulation of firearms, ammunition or components of firearms or ammunition, or combinations thereof.”

Local regulation is permitted where explicitly provided by Tennessee Code Annotated § 39-17-1314(b) or other state laws.1 Subsection (b) generally allows local regulation of:

  • The carrying of firearms by local government employees or independent contractors when acting in the course and scope of their employment or contract;
  • The discharge of firearms within the limits of the city, county, town municipality or metropolitan government;
  • The location of shooting ranges; and
  • The enforcement of state or federal firearm and ammunition laws.

Local governments may prohibit the possession of weapons, including gun possession by any person with a Tennessee handgun carry permit, at meetings conducted by, or on property owned, operated, managed or under the control of the government entity.2

In 1999, the Tennessee General Assembly amended section 39-17-1314 to reserve to the state the exclusive “authority to bring suit and right to recover against any firearms or ammunition manufacturer, trade association or dealer by or on behalf of any” state entity or local government for damages, abatement or injunctive relief resulting from or relating to the lawful design, manufacture, marketing or sale of firearms or ammunition unless based on a breach of contract or warranty in connection with firearms purchased by that entity.3 For more information about this statute, see our page on Immunity Statutes in Tennessee.

While there are no cases construing the provisions of sections 39-17-1314 or 39-17-1359, the Tennessee Attorney General has addressed whether local governments may prohibit the possession of handguns or long guns on publicly-owned property.4 Reviewing the provisions of both Tennessee Code Annotated §§ 39-17-1314(a) and 39-17-1359, the Attorney General opined that although section 39-17-1314(a) precludes local government entities from regulating firearm possession, localities do have the authority to regulate the possession of firearms – both handguns and long guns – on property owned or controlled by a local government.5 The Attorney General has also opined that while municipal regulations are permitted under Tenn. Code Ann. § 57-5-106 to regulate the sale of beer via a permit process, a local jurisdiction cannot use this process to restrict a person from possessing a firearm on the premises of an establishment with a permit to sell beer, as section 39-17-1314(a) prohibits such regulation.6

In 2014, the state enacted a law prohibiting local governments from regulating the possession, transportation or storage of a firearm or firearm ammunition by a handgun carry permit holder in such person’s vehicle while utilizing public or private parking areas.7

 

  1. Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-1314(a). []
  2. Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-1359(a). []
  3. Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-1314(d)(1), (2). []
  4. Op. Att’y Gen. 04-020, 2004 Tenn. AG LEXIS 20 (Feb. 9, 2004). []
  5. Opinion No. 04-020, at *1-*2, *6. []
  6. Op. Att’y Gen. 09-118, 2009 Tenn. AG LEXIS 154 (June 12, 2009). []
  7. Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-1313(a). []

Registration of Firearms in Tennesee

Posted on Tuesday, September 1st, 2015

Tennessee does not require the registration of firearms.

See our Registration of Firearms policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.

Licensing of Gun Owners & Purchasers in Tennessee

Posted on Tuesday, September 1st, 2015

Tennessee has no law requiring gun owners or purchasers to obtain a license.

See our Licensing of Gun Owners or Purchasers policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.

Immunity Statutes in Tennessee

Posted on Tuesday, September 1st, 2015

The Tennessee General Assembly has declared that the lawful design, marketing, manufacture and sale of firearms and ammunition to the public are not unreasonably dangerous activities and do not constitute a nuisance per se.1

The authority to bring suit and right to recover against any firearms or ammunition manufacturer, trade association or dealer by or on behalf of any state entity, county, municipality or metropolitan government for damages, abatement or injunctive relief resulting from or relating to the lawful design, manufacture, marketing or sale of firearms or ammunition to the public is reserved exclusively to the state.2

Tennessee’s immunity provisions do not prohibit a county, municipality, or metropolitan government, however, from bringing an action against a firearms or ammunition manufacturer or dealer for breach of contract or warranty as to firearms or ammunition purchased by the county, municipality, or metropolitan government.3 Individual persons are are not precluded from bringing a cause of action for breach of a written contract, breach of an express warranty, or for injuries resulting from defects in the materials or workmanship in the manufacture of a firearm.4 These exceptions to immunity do not apply in any other litigation brought by an individual against a firearms or ammunition manufacturer, trade association or dealer.5

For detailed information about government and private party lawsuits against the gun industry, the status of litigation involving gun industry immunity statutes in various states, or pending gun industry immunity legislation, visit the Brady Center’s Legal Action Project and the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence’s Gun Industry Immunity page.

See our Immunity Statutes policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.

 

  1. Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-1314(b). []
  2. Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-1314(c)(1). []
  3. Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-1314(c)(2). []
  4. Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-1314(c)(3). []
  5. Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-1314(d). []

Gun Shows in Tennessee

Posted on Tuesday, September 1st, 2015

Tennessee does not regulate gun shows. In fact, an exception to the prohibition on possessing certain proscribed weapons with the intent to go armed (not including most handguns and long guns)1 allows individuals to possess such firearms when conducting or attending “gun and knife shows” where the program has been approved by the administrator of the recreational building or property.2

See the  Tennessee Private Sales section for state laws that apply at gun shows.

See our Gun Shows policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.

  1. See Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 39-17-1302(a), 39-17-1311(a) (prohibited weapons include machine guns, short-barreled rifles or shotguns, and any other implements “for infliction of serious bodily injury or death” which have no lawful purpose). []
  2. Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-1311(b)(1)(J)(iii). []

Reporting Lost or Stolen Firearms in Tennessee

Posted on Tuesday, September 1st, 2015

Tennessee does not require firearms owners to report the loss or theft of a firearm.

See our Reporting Lost or Stolen Firearms policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.

Prohibited Purchasers Generally in Tennessee

Posted on Tuesday, September 1st, 2015

See our Prohibited Purchasers policy summary  for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.

Federal law prohibits certain persons from purchasing or possessing firearms, such as felons, certain domestic abusers, and certain people with a history of mental illness.

Tennessee law prohibits the possession of a firearm by any person:

  • Convicted of a felony involving the use or attempted use of force, violence or a deadly weapon;1
  • Convicted of a felony drug offense;2
  • Convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence while remaining subject to the disabilities of such a conviction;3
  • Possessing a firearm while subject to an order of protection;4
  • Under the influence of alcohol or any controlled substance (handguns only);5 or
  • Prohibited from possessing a firearm under any other provision of federal or state law6

Tennessee prohibits anyone convicted of a felony from possessing a handgun.7

Tennessee prohibits juveniles (persons under age 18) from knowingly possessing a handgun.8

In addition, Tennessee prohibits any person from selling a firearm to any person: 1) convicted of stalking;9 2) addicted to alcohol; 3) ineligible to receive a firearm under federal law; 4) judicially committed to a mental institution; or 5) adjudicated as a mental defective.10

For information on the background check process used to enforce these prohibitions, see the Tennessee Background Checks section.

  1. Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-1307(b)(1)(A). []
  2. Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-1307(b)(1)(B). []
  3. Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-1307(f)(1)(A). The crime of domestic violence, as applies to this section, is defined under federal law, 18 U.S.C. § 921(a)(33). []
  4. Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-1307(f)(1)(B). The order of protection must fully comply with federal law, 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(8). []
  5. Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-1321(a). []
  6. Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-1307(f)(1)(C). []
  7. Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-1307(c). []
  8. Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-1319(b), (a)(2). []
  9. See Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-315. []
  10. Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-1316(a)(1). []

Disarming Prohibited Persons in Tennessee

Posted on Tuesday, September 1st, 2015

Tennessee law states that any weapon that is possessed, used or sold in violation of the law shall be confiscated by a law enforcement officer and declared to be contraband by a court of record exercising criminal jurisdiction.1

Domestic Assault Convictions

Persons convicted of domestic assault must terminate possession of all firearms the person owns or possesses.2

Domestic Violence Orders of Protection

If a domestic violence order of protection is granted in a manner that fully complies with 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(8), the person subject to that order must terminate physical possession of all firearms he or she possesses, such as transfer to a third party who is not prohibited from possessing firearms, within 48 hours of the granting of the order.3 The person subject to the order is prohibited from possessing any firearms as long as the order is in effect.4 He or she may reassume possession of the dispossessed firearm at such time as the order expires or is otherwise no longer in effect.5

  1. Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-13-1317. []
  2. Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-13-111. Specific procedures for relinquishment of firearms are detailed under Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-3-625. []
  3. Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-3-604(c). []
  4. Id., Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-3-625(a). It is a state crime in fact for any person subject to an order of protection that fully complies with 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(8) to knowingly fail to surrender to law enforcement or lawfully transfer all firearms. Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-3-625(h)(1), (2). []
  5. Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-3-625(a)(2). []

Domestic Violence & Firearms in Tennessee

Posted on Tuesday, September 1st, 2015

In 2009, Tennessee enacted a ground-breaking law directly addressing the issue of firearms in the hands of domestic abusers, as described below.

Firearm Prohibitions for Domestic Violence Misdemeanants

Tennessee prohibits the carrying or possession of a firearm by any person convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence who is still subject to the disabilities of such a conviction.1 Federal law prohibits the purchase and possession of firearms and ammunition by persons who have been convicted in any court of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence.2

Persons convicted of domestic assault must terminate possession of all firearms the person owns or possesses.3

Firearm Prohibitions for Persons Subject to Domestic Violence Restraining/Protective Orders

The 2009 Tennessee law prohibits the carrying or possession of a firearm while subject to an order of protection “that fully complies with 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(8)” (the federal law prohibiting firearm possession by an abuser subject to a protective order).4

The Tennessee law provides that persons obtaining a domestic violence order of protection may seek an order that prohibits a respondent from purchasing or possessing a firearm.5 The Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts was required to revise the petition for an order of protection to fully advise the respondent that:

  • If the order of protection is granted in a manner that fully complies with 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(8), the respondent is required to terminate physical possession of all firearms possessed by respondent by any lawful means, such as transfer to a third party who is not prohibited from possessing firearms, within 48 hours of the granting of the order;
  • It is a criminal offense for a person subject to an order of protection that fully complies with 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(8) to possess a firearm while that order is in effect; and
  • The issuance of an order of protection may terminate, or at least suspend, the individual’s ability to purchase or possess a firearm.6

In Tennessee, an order of protection must state, on its face:

  • That the respondent is required to dispossess himself or herself, by any lawful means, of all firearms in his or her possession within 48 hours of the issuance of the order;
  • That the respondent is prohibited from possessing a firearm for so long as the order of protection or any successive order of protection is in effect, and may reassume possession of the dispossessed firearm at such time as the order expires or is otherwise no longer in effect; and
  • Notice of the penalty for failing to comply with state laws regarding the possession of firearms when subject to an order of protection for domestic violence.7

The court must then order and instruct the respondent:

  • To terminate the respondent’s physical possession of the firearms in his or her possession by any lawful means, such as transferring possession to a third party who is not prohibited from possessing firearms, within 48 hours;
  • To complete and return the affidavit of firearm dispossession form the court may provide the respondent or direct the respondent to the administrative office of the courts’ web site; and
  • That if the respondent possesses firearms as business inventory or that are registered under the National Firearms Act,8 there are additional statutory provisions that may apply which the court must include in the content of its order.9

Tennessee prohibits any person subject to an order of protection that fully complies with 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(8) to knowingly fail to surrender or transfer all firearms the respondent possesses.10

Removal or Surrender of Firearms When Domestic Violence Protective Orders Are Issued

The 2009 Tennessee law requires an individual subject to a domestic violence protection order to surrender all firearms by, for example, transferring them to a third party who may lawfully possess firearms.11

Removal or Surrender of Firearms at the Scene of a Domestic Violence Incident

In Tennessee, law enforcement officers that have probable cause to believe a criminal offense involving domestic abuse against a victim has occurred must seize all firearms that the alleged abuser may have used or threatened to use in the commission of a domestic abuse crime.12

During the arrest of an alleged abuser for a crime of domestic abuse against a victim, law enforcement officers may also seize any firearm in plain view of the officer or discovered pursuant to a consensual search if necessary for the protection of the officer or other persons.13

If multiple weapons are seized, a prosecuting court has authority to confiscate only the weapon or weapons actually used or threatened to be used by the abuser to commit the crime.14

See our Domestic Violence & Firearms policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.

  1. Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-1307(f)(1)(A). The crime of domestic violence, as applies to this section, is defined under federal law, 18 U.S.C. § 921(a)(33). Firearms may not be sold to any person convicted of stalking under Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-315. Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-1316(a)(1). []
  2. 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(9). []
  3. Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-13-111. Specific procedures for relinquishment of firearms are detailed under Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-3-625. []
  4. Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-1307(f)(1)(B). []
  5. Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-3-604(b). []
  6. Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-3-604(c). []
  7. Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-3-625(a). See Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-1307(f)(1)(B) for state prohibition on possessing a gun while subject to an order of protection. []
  8. 26 U.S.C. §§ 5801 et seq. []
  9. Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-3-625(b). []
  10. Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-3-625(h)(1). []
  11. Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-3-625(a), (h)(1). Any such person who knowingly fails to do so is subject to a Class A misdemeanor. Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-3-625(h)(2). []
  12. Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-3-620(a)(1). []
  13. Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-3-620(a)(2). A law enforcement officer is not required to remove a weapon such officer believes is needed by the victim for self-defense. Id. []
  14. Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-3-620(b). All other weapons seized shall be returned upon disposition of the case. The seizing officer must append an inventory of all seized weapons to the domestic abuse report that the officer files with his or her supervisor. Id. See Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-1317 for state law governing the confiscation and disposition of confiscated firearms. []

Minimum Age to Purchase & Possess in Tennessee

Posted on Tuesday, September 1st, 2015

Tennessee prohibits any juvenile (person under age 18)1 from knowingly possessing a handgun.2

No person may intentionally, knowingly or recklessly sell, loan or make a gift of a firearm to a minor (person under 18 years of age).3) The transferor may claim as a defense to prosecution that the firearm was loaned or given to a minor for the purposes of hunting, trapping, fishing, camping, sport shooting or any other lawful sporting activity, and the transferor is not required to obtain a license under Tennessee gun dealer laws.4

Tennessee also prohibits any person from intentionally, knowingly or recklessly providing a handgun, with or without remuneration, to any person the seller or transferor knows or has reason to believe is a juvenile.5 Federal age restrictions impose stricter limits.

There is no minimum age to possess rifles and shotguns in Tennessee.

See our Minimum Age to Purchase & Possess Firearms policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.

  1. Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-1319(a)(2). []
  2. Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-1319(b). For a list of affirmative defenses a juvenile may raise when being prosecuted for knowingly possessing a handgun, see Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-1319(d)(1). []
  3. Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-1303(a)(1). (Minor is defined under Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-11-106(a)(23). []
  4. Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-1303(b). []
  5. Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-1320(a). []