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What are the Gun Laws in Tennessee?

A Synopsis of State Laws on Purchase, Possession and Carrying of Firearms


State Requirements

Rifles and Shotguns
  • Permit to purchase rifles and shotguns? No.
  • Registration of rifles and shotguns? No.
  • Licensing of owners of rifles and shotguns? No.
  • Permit to carry rifles and shotguns? No.
  • Permit to purchase handgun? No.
  • Registration of handguns? No.
  • Licensing of owners of handguns? No.
  • Permit to carry handguns? Yes.
Caution: This summary is meant for general purposes only. Firearm laws frequently change.


Subject to some exceptions, it is unlawful to sell or transfer a handgun to any person who is intoxicated or who is prohibited from gun ownership under the law.

While a permit is not required to purchase a firearm, any person wanting to obtain a handgun must present the licensed dealer with current identification and other information, including make, model, caliber and manufacturer’s number of the firearm being transferred, so that the dealer can fill out the forms for a background check.

The dealer shall complete a firearms transaction record and obtain the signature of the purchaser on the record.

The dealer shall also obtain a thumbprint of the purchaser.

The dealer shall request by telephone that the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation conduct a criminal history record check on the purchaser.

The dealer shall be notified by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation if the purchaser is disqualified from completing the transfer or provide the dealer with a unique approval number.

The Tennessee Bureau of investigation may charge a fee of up to $10.00 for conducting the background check.

The background check does not apply to:
  • Transactions between licensed manufacturers, importers, dealers, or collectors who certify prior to transfer the legal and licensed status of both parties.

  • Transactions between licensed manufacturers, importers, dealers, and a law enforcement agency or the agency’s personnel.

  • The burden falls upon the transferor to determine the legality of the transaction in progress.
The background check does not apply to any person eligible to purchase a firearm who wishes to make an occasional sale of a used or secondhand firearm legally purchased by the seller.

It is unlawful for any person to sell, loan or give a firearm to a minor.

It is a defense to providing a firearm to a minor if the person providing the firearm is not a dealer and the firearm was loaned or given for the purposes of hunting, trapping, fishing, camping, sport shooting, or other lawful sporting activity.


There is no state permit requirement for the possession of rifles, shotguns, or handguns.

It is unlawful to possess a handgun for persons:
  • Who have been convicted of a felony involving the use or attempted use of force, violence or a deadly weapon.

  • Who have been convicted of a felony drug offense.

  • Who are under 18.
It is a defense for a juvenile possessing a handgun if the person is attending:
  • A hunter/firearms safety course.

  • Practicing or target shooting at an authorized, established range where the discharge of a firearm is not prohibited.

  • Participating in an organized competition or practicing for an firearms event.

  • Is accompanied by the minor’s parent or guardian and instructed in proper handgun use.

  • On real property under control of an adult and has permission from the minor’s legal guardian.

  • At the juvenile’s residence and with the permission of the juvenile’s parent or legal guardian, possesses a handgun and is justified in using physical force or deadly force.

  • Has a valid hunting or trapping license.

  • Or is traveling to or from a lawful activity with an unloaded1 handgun.
It is unlawful for a person to possess a handgun while under the influence of alcohol or any controlled substance regardless of whether he or she has a lawful permit to carry the handgun.


It is unlawful for any person to carry "with the intent to go armed" a firearm, knife with a blade length exceeding four inches, or a club. The burden is on the state to show an "intent to go armed."

It is a defense to unlawful carrying if the possession or carrying was:
  • Of an unloaded rifle, shotgun or handgun not concealed on or about the person and the ammunition for the weapon was not in the immediate vicinity of the person or weapon.

  • By a person authorized by written directive and permit to carry handguns.

  • At the person’s place of residence, place of business or premises.

  • Incident to lawful hunting, trapping, fishing, camping, sport shooting or other lawful activity.

  • By a person possessing a rifle or shotgun while engaged in the lawful protection of livestock from predatory animals.

  • By a Tennessee Valley Authority officer who holds a valid commission from the Commissioner of Safety while such officer is in the performance of the officer’s official duties.

  • By a state, county or municipal judge or any federal judge or magistrate.

  • By an out-of-state, full-time, commissioned law enforcement officer who holds a valid commission card and photo identification from a state with a reciprocal agreement for law enforcement from Tennessee to carry in their state.

    Carrying by law enforcement is prohibited without the commission card, the ID, and the reciprocal agreement.
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