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. 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.
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. 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. 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. 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.
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.