In 2021, Tennessee eliminated its permit requirement for carrying concealed handguns in public spaces and, effective July 1, 2021, now generally allows anyone at least 21 years old to carry a handgun in most public spaces without a permit, either openly or concealed, as long as they are legally eligible to possess the handgun and are lawfully present in the place where they are carrying the gun.1
Tennessee kept its permitting system for people who want to obtain concealed carry permits for reciprocity or other reasons.
In 2019, Tennessee passed law that created a new carry permit that has fewer safety training requirements than the previous permit. Tennessee’s previous handgun carry permit is now called the ‘enhanced handgun carry permit’, and the new permit is called the ‘handgun carry permit.'2 Under state law, the Tennessee Department of Safety (“TDS”) generally must issue a handgun carry permit if the applicant meets certain qualifications. TDS shall issue a handgun carry permit to any resident or “permanent lawful resident” of Tennessee who is at least 21 years of age and is not prohibited from purchasing or possessing a firearm under federal or state law.3 Handgun carry permits will not be issued to any person who:4
- Has been convicted of a criminal offense or is currently under indictment or information for any criminal offense that is designated as a felony, or that is a disqualifying misdemeanor for driving under the influence,5 stalking,6 or domestic violence,7 except for any federal or state offenses pertaining to antitrust violations, unfair trade practices, restraints of trade or other similar offenses relating to the regulations of business practices;
- Is currently subject to any order of protection;
- Is a fugitive from justice;
- Is an unlawful user of or addicted to alcohol or any controlled substance and has been a patient in a rehabilitation program or hospitalized for alcohol or controlled substance abuse or addiction pursuant to a court order within ten years from the date of application ; or has been a voluntary patient in a rehabilitation program or hospitalized for alcohol or controlled substance abuse or addiction within three years from the date of application.
- Has been convicted of driving under the influence of an intoxicant in this or any other state two or more times within ten years from the date of application and the convictions occurred within five years from the date of application or renewal;
- Has been found by a court, board, commission, or other lawful authority to be a danger to self or others, or to lack the mental capacity to contract or manage their own affairs, as a result of their mental condition or illness
- Have been involuntarily hospitalized or committed to a mental health or substance abuse treatment facility by a court, board, commission, or other lawful authority;
- Has, within seven years from the date of application, been found by a court to pose an immediate substantial likelihood of serious harm because of mental illness;
- Is an undocumented immigrant;
- Has been discharged from the armed forces under dishonorable conditions;
- Has renounced his or her United States citizenship;
- Has been convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence as defined in federal law;
- Is receiving social security disability benefits by reason of alcohol dependence, drug dependence or mental disability; or
- Has been convicted of stalking.8
In addition to the time of initial application, every four years, TDS will conduct a name-based criminal history record check of the applicant.9
Firearm Safety Training
TDS requires applicants to submit proof of successful completion of a TDS-approved firearm safety course as a prerequisite to obtaining a handgun carry permit.10 Applicants must submit proof of the successful completion of a department-approved safety course within one year of the date of application.11 For regular handgun carry permits, the safety course can be taken online or in person.12 For enhanced handgun carry permits, the qualifying course must be specific to handguns and include both classroom hours and firing range instruction.13 A component of the classroom portion of all department-approved handgun safety courses must be instruction on alcohol and drugs, the effects of those substances on a person’s reflexes, judgment and ability to safely handle a firearm, and the Tennessee prohibition against possession of a handgun while under the influence.14 An applicant for an enhanced permit is not required to comply with the classroom hours and firing range provisions, however, if he or she submits proof to TDS that within five years from the application filing date, the applicant has:
- Been certified by the peace officer standards and training commission;
- Successfully completed training at the law enforcement training academy; or
- Successfully completed the firearm training course required for armed security guards or officer registration.15
An applicant that, at any time prior to submitting an application, completed all handgun training of at least four hours, as required by any branch of the military, is not required to comply with these training requirements either.16 Permit holders are not required to complete a handgun safety course to maintain or renew a handgun carry permit, or to complete any additional handgun safety course after obtaining a permit.17 In addition, no permit holder is required to complete any additional handgun safety course if he or she applies for a permit renewal within within eight years of the date of expiration.18
Duration & Renewal
Handgun carry permits require an application fee of $65, and enhanced permits require a fee of $100; both are generally valid for eight years.19 Permit holders may renew a permit by submitting a renewal application and a fee of $50.20 The Department of Public Safety must conduct a name-based criminal history record check on a permit holder every four years.21 Tennessee law also authorizes applicants who would otherwise meet the enhanced handgun carry permit qualification standards above to receive a lifetime enhanced handgun carry permit if they submit a one-time fee of $200.22 Every five years after issuance of the lifetime enhanced handgun carry permit, the Department of Public Safety must conduct a criminal history record check in the same manner as required for handgun carry permit renewals.23 A lifetime handgun carry permit will continue to be valid for the life of the permit holder unless the record check determines that the permit holder no longer meets the legal requirements.24 Upon discovery that a lifetime handgun carry permit holder no longer satisfies the requirements, the Department shall suspend or revoke the permit.25
Disclosure or Use of Information
TDS is required to make available to the public a statistical report that includes the number of permits issued, denied, revoked or suspended by TDS during the preceding month, listed by age, gender and zip code of the applicant or permit holder, and the reason for any permit revocation or suspension.26 The report must include the cost of the program, the revenues derived from fees, the number of violations of the provisions of the handgun carry permit law, and the average time for issuance of a handgun carry permit.27 By January 1 of each year, a copy of such statistical reports for the preceding calendar year shall be provided to each member of the Tennessee General Assembly.28
TDS is also required to maintain statistics related to responses by law enforcement agencies to incidents in which a person who has a handgun carry permit is arrested for any offense.29
Any handgun permit, firearm permit, weapons permit or license issued by another state is valid in Tennessee according to its terms and shall be treated as if it is a handgun permit issued by Tennessee.30 This provision shall not be construed, however, to authorize the holder of any out-of-state permit or license to carry any firearm or weapon other than a handgun.31
The Tennessee Commissioner of Safety shall enter into written reciprocity agreements regarding the carrying of concealed firearms with other states that require the execution of such agreements.32 If another state imposes conditions on Tennessee permit holders in a reciprocity agreement, such conditions shall also become a part of the agreement and apply to the other state’s permit holders when they carry a handgun in Tennessee.33
Restoration of Rights
Prohibited individuals who have had their rights to firearm possession restored under state or federal law will be able to apply for handgun carry permits. This does not apply to any person who has been convicted of a felony crime of violence, an attempt to commit a felony crime of violence, a felony drug offense, or a felony offense involving use of a deadly weapon.34
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- Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-1307.
- 2019 TN HB 1264, amending Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-1351, and creating Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-1366.
- Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-1351(b). An applicant over the age of 18 may apply for a permit if he or she is either: 1) an active member of the US armed forces who has completed a basic training program; or 2) an honorably discharged veterans over the age of 18 who has completed a basic training program. The applicant must provide adequate documentation of this status. Id.
- These listed prohibitions can be found under Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-1351(c)(6) –(18), referenced by 39-17-1366(b)(3).
- Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-1351(c)(11).
- Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-1351(c)(18).
- Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-1351(c)(16).
- Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-1351(p)(1). Additional application and background check requirements and other permit-related information are detailed throughout Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-1351. Permit suspension and revocation provisions are set forth at Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 39-17-1352, 39-17-1353 and 39-17-1354.
- Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-1366.
- Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-1351(e). Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-1366(b)(4).
- Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-1351(e), 39-17-1366(b)(4).
- Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-1366(b)(4). Effective January 1, 2020.
- Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-1351(e).
- Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-1351(e)(4).
- Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-1351(m).
- Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-1351(m).
- Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 39-17-1351(n), 39-17-1351(p), 39-17-1366.
- Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-1351(q)(1). A renewal application that is submitted within eight years of the permit expiration need only go through the normal renewal process. A renewal for a permit that has been expired for more than eight years will be treated as a new application. Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-1351(q)(2).
- Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-1351(n).
- Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-1351(x). For retired law enforcement officers, the fee is generally $100. Id.
- Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-1351(s)(1).
- Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-1351(s)(2)(A).
- Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-1351(r)(1).
- Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-1351(r)(3)(A).
- Id. Additional provisions regarding the reciprocity of concealed weapons permit holders are detailed under Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-1351(r).
- Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-1351(j).