The state of Tennessee’s updated gun law to allow permitless open and concealed carry of legally owned firearms takes effect in July 2021. That sounds pretty cut-and-dried, but before you head out the door read this overview of what has changed…. And what hasn’t.

Changes to Tennessee Gun Carry Law

Starting with the ‘new’ rules around carrying a firearm in Tennessee with its new “constitutional carry” law:

  • Basically, anyone over the age of 21 can open- or conceal-carry a handgun without a permit.
  • The law also grants members of the military (active or honorably discharged) who fall into the 18-20 year old age group the right to permitless carry.
  • There are some exceptions to this rule for certain people with specific mental issues or criminal convictions.
  • Penalties for gun thefts have increased, making the theft a class-E felony rather than a CLASS-A misdemeanor.
  • There can be enhanced charges if theft occurs from a motor vehicle.
  • Sentences for gun theft increase from no less than 30 days confinement to no less than 180 days.
  • The constitutional carry bill changes the licensing requirement for handguns only and does not apply to long guns.

What Tennessee Gun Laws Didn’t Change

It is also important to note what hasn’t changed in Tennessee gun law:

  • The permitless handgun carry law pertains only to law-abiding citizens who have been able to legally purchase a gun.
  • Permits are still available for citizens to attain, which can be necessary to legally carry in other states.
  • Private property owners still determine if carrying a firearm on their property is allowed. Those who are not members of law enforcement are required to abide by their rules.
  • The new permitless carry law does not change laws in Tennessee that prohibit certain persons from possessing a gun. Nor does the new law alter any laws prohibiting the misuse of a firearm, including threatening, brandishing or discharging without cause.
  • The law does not change the places where carrying a firearm is prohibited. And it does not change when it can and cannot be used in the defense of self and others.
  • There is no change to Tennessee’s reciprocity laws for handgun carry for visitors.

What Exactly Does the New Tennessee Open Carry Handgun Law Say?

Full Bill, as published by the state of Tennessee in their 2021 Legislative Report:

SB765/HB786 Handgun carry permits and offenses involving handguns.

Sponsors: Sen. Johnson, Jack , Rep. Lamberth, William

Summary: Creates an exemption for unlawful carrying of a firearm if the person meets the qualifications for an enhanced handgun carry permit, lawfully possesses the handgun and is in a place where they have a right to be. Clarifies that a person who has a valid enhanced handgun carry TCCY Legislative Report 5/27/2021 23 permit, a concealed handgun carry permit or lawfully carries a handgun is allowed to transport and store a firearm and ammunition in their vehicle. Changes the requirements for carrying a handgun carry permit to only being required to do so when carrying a handgun in a location or manner that would otherwise be prohibited if not for the person’s status as a permit holder.

Upgrades the charge of theft of a firearm from a class A misdemeanor to a class E felony for thefts valued at less than $2,500. Changes the sentence for theft of a firearm from no less than 30 days confinement to no less than 180 days confinement. Allows the court to consider if an offense involved the theft of a firearm from a motor vehicle as a sentence enhancement factor. Establishes that for certain firearms offenses there is to be no release eligibility before the offender serves 85 percent of their sentence. Part of Administration Package.

Amendment Summary: Senate amendment 1 (004122) deletes and adds language to the original bill such that any person at least 21 years old or at least 18 years old and is a member of or honorably discharged or retired from the United States Armed Forces or any National Guard or Reserves is exempt from the offense of open or concealed carrying of a firearm with the intent to go armed if legally in possession and not prohibited from carrying a firearm.

Creates a Class B misdemeanor offense for a person to carry a handgun who has been convicted of stalking, aggravated stalking, or especially aggravated stalking, convicted of two or more DUIs within the last ten years or one within the last five years. Creates a Class B misdemeanor offense for a person to carry a handgun who has been adjudicated as a mental defective, judicially committed to or hospitalized in a mental institution or has had a court appoint a conservator for the person by reason of a mental defect.

Senate Status: 03/18/21 – Senate passed with amendment 1 (004122).

House Status: 03/29/21 – House passed.

Executive Status: 04/12/21 – Enacted as Public Chapter 0108 effective July 1, 2021.

If you find yourself in a situation related to this law or others, contact the attorneys of McKeehan Law Group to schedule a free consultation at (865) 294-8008.