NRA conventioneers: These are you gun rights in Nashville

Friday, April 3, 2015, Vol. 39, No. 14
By Jeannie Naujeck

Concealed or open carry of a handgun in Tennessee is legal with a permit issued by the state Department of Safety.

The state must issue a handgun carry permit to any applicant who is at least 21 years old, a resident, and not prohibited from purchasing or possessing a firearm under federal or state law.

Prohibitions include those who have been convicted, or are under indictment for, a felony offense or certain misdemeanors including DUI, stalking or domestic violence; who are subject to an order of protection; are a fugitive from justice; are addicted to alcohol or any controlled substance; have a mental illness or mental disability; are an illegal alien; and other categories.

Initial permits cost $115 and are valid for four years. (A bill before the General Assembly this session would extend that to five years.)

Applicants must pass a one-time-only approved handgun safety course that includes classroom hours and firing range instruction. Online courses are not accepted. Some applicants are exempt from the course requirement, including former law enforcement officers, graduates of the police academy and members of the military who have completed certain training.

No other safety courses are required to maintain or renew a handgun carry permit, and there is no rule that requires competency on any specific handgun that someone owns or wants to purchase.

New residents must obtain a Tennessee handgun permit within six months of establishing residency.

Where can guns be carried

Those with a permit may carry handguns, which have barrels of less than 12 inches, openly or concealed. Tennessee recognizes out-of-state visitors’ handgun carry permits.

Handguns may be carried by permitted persons in state parks, but carrying in city or county-owned parks has been left up to local jurisdictions. Metro Nashville-Davidson County currently has a ban on guns in its parks and publicly-owned buildings.

However, that may soon change. A bill that would preempt the ability of local governments to regulate where guns are carried, thus making guns legal in all public parks regardless of ownership, has passed both the House and the Senate. The effective date of the law would be April 6.

The Senate version also would allow carry permit holders to take their guns to the state Capitol.

Handguns may be carried in the Music City Center convention center, but are not allowed in Bridgestone Arena. The NRA will use both facilities during the convention.

Loaded handguns may be legally carried into Tennessee bars and restaurants that serve alcohol, although the carrier may not legally consume alcohol. Establishments may prohibit guns by posting a sign; criminal defense attorneys say in that case it is highly unlikely the business would be liable for any incident that occurs.

Loaded firearms may be legally stored in motor vehicles by persons who are legally able to possess a gun, even if they do not have a state-issued permit. Those without permits may not carry the gun outside the vehicle, however, or leave the vehicle in a parking lot where a sign is posted prohibiting guns.

Employees may leave firearms in their vehicles at work. A bill that passed both chambers this year and is likely to be enacted would prohibit employers from firing employees because they had a gun in their car at work.

Guns are not permitted in any room where a judicial proceeding is taking place or at a property used but not owned by a school.

‘Stand your ground’ law

Tennessee is one of 33 states that have some form of a “stand your ground” law.

A person may use deadly force against another when they are in a place where they have the lawful right to be (such as their residence, other dwellings, business, hotel room or personal motor vehicle), are not engaged in unlawful activity and have a reasonable belief that they are in real and imminent danger of death or serious bodily injury.

Unlike in some states, Tennesseans do not have a duty to try to retreat from the situation, such as fleeing the scene or leaving a house, before using deadly force.

Deadly force can only be used against a person who forcibly enters or has already entered the area. It does not apply against persons who have the right to be there. Deadly force is not permitted to protect personal property or real estate.