More Reasons Not To Rely On Tennessee’s Permitless Carry Law

Photo Credit: Public Domain

Published July 2, 2021

By John Harris [The Tennessee Firearms Association] and The Tennessee Conservative Staff- 

Effective yesterday, July 1st, a new law allows some individuals who meet a list of specific qualifications to carry a handgun in Tennessee without the need for a handgun permit. 

However, the Tennessee Firearms Association has uncovered more reasons why Tennesseans should not rely on the law to keep them out of trouble when carrying a firearm. 

Tennessee Capitol Building in Nashville

The risks of criminal prosecution for permitless carry may rise under federal law. 

Consider, for example, the federal gun free school zones act. See, 18 U.S.C. § 922(q). 

Under the gun free school zones act it is a federal crime to have a firearm within 1000 feet of a “school zone”. There is an exception under the federal law but the exception only applies to those “licensed” by the state to carry a firearm.  

The specific exception states that the “if the individual possessing the firearm is licensed to do so by the State in which the school zone is located or a political subdivision of the State, and the law of the State or political subdivision requires that, before an individual obtains such a license, the law enforcement authorities of the State or political subdivision verify that the individual is qualified under law to receive the license….”  

The gun free school zones act therefore would allow the federal prosecution of an individual carrying under Tennessee’s permitless carry law if they are on property or within the zone that is subject to the act. 

Early yesterday the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation sent out an email to notify Federal Firearms Licenses in Tennessee that it was implementing a policy whereby it would deny those individuals who had 2 or more DUI’s in the last 10 years or 1 DUI in the last five years from being able to purchase any firearm in Tennessee. 
Tennessee Firearms Association contacted the TBI to request clarification of this policy and the reasoning behind it in an Open Records Request.  

TFA also contacted the Department of Safety, the BATF and several state legislators on this same issue to see if any of them had been contacted or were in agreement with the TBI policy. 
Almost immediately, the TBI sent out another email in which it asked federal firearms licensees to disregard its earlier email “as an error”. 

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation’s “TICS” division, which is the division that performs background checks on firearms purchases from federally licensed dealers, has announced that it will now deny transfers to anyone who has had 2 or more DUI’s in the preceding 10 years or 1 or more DUI’s in the last 5 years. 
From: Sandi Duncan 
Subject: This morning’s Email 
Date: July 1, 2021 at 1:58:13 PM CDT 
To: [omitted FFL group list] 
Reply-To: Sandi Duncan 

This morning an email was sent from TBI regarding Public Chapter 108 and how its passage impacts purchase prohibitors specific to DUI’s. Upon further research and review, we ask that you disregard that email as an error. I greatly appreciate your feedback and bringing this to our attention. We apologize for any confusion this has caused and look forward to our continued partnership. 

Director David Rausch 

Sandi Duncan 
CJIS Manager – TICS Unit 
Tennessee Bureau of Investigation 
901 R.S. Gass Blvd. 
Nashville, TN. 37216 
Tennessee Firearms Association would like to thank those TFA members who reported this issue, the state legislators who immediately got involved to address it and other state and federal officials who responded to this “error”. 

One thing appears clear. This is the kind of thing that might be anticipated when new state laws are written that impose new infringements on Second Amendment rights and those new infringements have potential “ripple” effects that may or may not have been intended. 

Upon closely examining Tennessee’s new permitless carry law, TFA has concluded that for most people it is likely far safer to get the Tennessee enhanced handgun permit. 

It is important for individuals who are considering relying on the permitless carry law to be aware of the risks surrounding this new law.  

As discussed in previous TFA updates, the permitless carry law will not allow individuals to carry without a permit in public parks, in public campgrounds or on public greenways. 

Under Tennessee law, it is a crime to have a firearm in these recreational areas. See, Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-1311.  

Under this statute, which is often referred to as the “parks” statute, individuals who have a handgun permit are allowed to carry a handgun in these recreational areas.  

When the 2021 permitless carry law was enacted, however, no exception was made to the parks statute to allow those who may be relying on the permitless carry law to go into these locations.  

The consequence is that someone who is relying on permitless carry can be charged with a criminal violation if they are carrying in a park, campground, greenway or similar location.  

The “parks” example may impact a lot of people but it is not the only instance where Tennessee law allows permit holders to go into certain areas but does not allow those who carry a handgun without a permit to go. 

The Tennessee Firearms Association strongly works and advocates for real constitutional carry not just in Tennessee but nationally.  

Right now, it does not exist in Tennessee.  

TFA therefore encourages people to consider the options that they have if they want to carry and suggests that the safest option now in Tennessee is to get the enhanced handgun permit.  

It provides the most options on where you can carry and the fewest risks of inadvertently carrying into a place where you could be criminally prosecuted merely for being armed. 

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About the Author:

John Harris is the Executive Director of The Tennessee Firearms Association. You can contact TFA here. You can join TFA here.

3 thoughts on “More Reasons Not To Rely On Tennessee’s Permitless Carry Law

  • July 2, 2021 at 3:57 pm

    Is there a process to upgrade from a concealed only permit to the enhanced permit. Understanding the class must be taken, do you have to start all over with fingerprints and photo?

  • July 2, 2021 at 9:14 pm

    John, thanks again for the valued informative. As always, you are on top of these important 2nd Amendment issues that protect our state and our nation. As we had discussed last year when I had contacted you about this bill, these RINOS pulled a fast one on many unsuspecting gun owners. We need to build momentum now to carry a bill next session to address these issues with this legislation. I was talking with one Senator recently about this and I am confident he will carry the bill. The only person we can trust in this state to write it is TRA. With an election year ahead in the House and the Senate I believe we have a great chance to get this done. I welcome your thoughts.

  • July 3, 2021 at 4:01 pm

    So this so called “constitutional carry” is nothing close. In essence, it is actually subjecting gun owners to potential criminal charges. Constitutional carry should allow law abiding citizens to carry anywhere the permit system does, which it doesn’t so it’s a total sham!


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