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What are Tennessee's gun laws?

The gun law debate is back in focus after a mass shooting at a Texas elementary school. Here's where gun laws stand in the Volunteer State.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — It's not hard to get a gun in Tennessee. 

In fact, in some cases, you don't have to go through a background check.

How old do you have to be to buy a gun in Tennessee?

Most people over 21 can buy guns without a permit in Tennessee. Military members over 18 can buy them too. 

Federal law states that you have to be 18 to buy a "long gun", like a shotgun or rifle, even rifles with pistol grips like the AR-15. 

Does Tennessee require background checks?

Federal law requires federally licensed gun dealers to perform background checks before selling a gun through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). 

That checks for criminal history, including domestic violence, as well as history of drug use or mental health disorder. 

However, in Tennessee, private sellers don't have to do a background check. If you buy a gun from someone without a federal license (gun show, yard sale, or even online), you don't have to go through a background check.

Do I need a permit?

If you want to carry a gun openly or concealed in public in Tennessee, you don't need a permit. As of July 1, 2021, Tennessee is a permitless carry state. However, you still need a permit in certain situations. 

Anyone convicted of driving under the influence, domestic violence or stalking isn't eligible. Neither are felons or those who have been committed by the court to a mental institution. 

How do I get a concealed carry permit?

To apply for a concealed carry permit, you'll need to complete an application online.

Once you complete the application, if you're not otherwise exempt, you must attend a handgun safety course. 

Once the course has been completed, you'll visit a Driver Services Center. The application fee is $65 for an eight-year permit. 

According to the Tennessee Department of Safety & Homeland Security, guns can't be carried in:

  • Courtrooms
  • School property
  • While under the influence: A gun owner's BAC has to be 0.0 to legally carry, or else they're breaking the law.
  • Certain meetings
  • Leased property

Guns are also not allowed at airports, military institutions, and any other building/area prohibited by federal law.

What states recognize Tennessee carry permits?

Tennessee has signed formal reciprocity agreements with several states. Those with valid Tennessee carry permits should contact the reciprocity state for info on carrying guns before entering the reciprocity state. 

Is Tennessee a 'constitutional carry' state?

Yes, Tennessee is a 'constitutional carry' state. 

Gov. Bill Lee signed a law in July 2021 allowing Tennesseans to carry guns without a permit. The law doesn't require permits for gun owners, and therefore doesn't require training. 

The Tennessee Firearms Association has more guidance for gun owners on the law and how to avoid accidentally committing a crime.


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