Tennessee’s hate and gun laws have significant gaps that allow people to keep and access guns, including assault weapons, after they have been convicted of violent hate crimes.
Access to Guns for People Convicted of Hate Crimes in Tennessee
|Violence with Severe Bodily Injury||Violence with Bodily Injury||Other Crimes Involving Intentional Use of Force||Threats with Deadly Weapons|
Other Credible Threats to Physical Safety
|Federal Law||Very limited or no access||Some access||Some access||Some access|
|State Law||Very limited or no access||Significant access||Significant access||Some access|
Tennessee has a narrow hate crime law, which makes it a felony (called “civil rights intimidation”) to, among other things, injure or threaten to injure another person with intent to unlawfully intimidate them from freely exercising legally and constitutionally protected rights.1 Tennessee also makes hate motivation a factor in criminal sentencing, though this generally does not affect the maximum sentence that may be imposed for an offense or otherwise reclassify any misdemeanors as felonies.2
Tennessee law prohibits people from accessing firearms if they have been convicted of specified violent felonies, including aggravated assault, or of a felony involving the use of a deadly weapon.3 Tennessee also generally prohibits people convicted of all other felonies from accessing handguns but not other firearms such as assault rifles.4
Federal law is somewhat broader and generally prohibits people from accessing guns if they have been convicted of a felony punishable by over one year in prison, or a state law misdemeanor punishable by more than two years.5 (In Tennessee, misdemeanors are not punishable by more than one year,6 so people are generally subject to federal firearm restrictions only if they are convicted of felonies).
As a result, hate crime offenders in Tennessee are generally prohibited from accessing guns under both state and federal law only if they are convicted of specified felonies like aggravated assault resulting in serious bodily injury or of other felonies involving use of a deadly weapon. People convicted of most felonies, including most violent “civil rights intimidation” offenses and stalking with threats of violence,7 are generally prohibited from accessing handguns under both state and federal law, but are restricted from accessing long guns under federal law only.
People convicted of violent hate-motivated misdemeanors generally remain eligible to access firearms under both state and federal law, including people convicted of violently injuring someone in an assault or making credible threats of hate-motivated violence.8
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- Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-309.
- Tenn. Code Ann. § 40-35-114(17). This law authorizes judges to depart from standard sentencing ranges if the victim was intentionally selected due to their race, religion, color, disability, sexual orientation, national origin, ancestry, or gender.
- Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 39-17-1307(b)(1)(B); 39-17-1301 (defining “Crime of violence”); 39-13-102(a) (defining “aggravated assault”).
- Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-1307(c)(1).
- 18 U.S.C. § 922 (g)(1); 18 U.S.C. § 921(a)(20)(B).
- Tenn. Code Ann. § 40-35-111(e).
- Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-315(c)(1)(D), (c)(2).
- Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 39-13-101; 39-17-308(a)(1).