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Tennessee     updated 1/14/2006

EXCERPTS


39-17-1301. Part definitions.

As used in this part, unless the context otherwise requires:  

 (1) "Club" means any instrument that is specially designed, made or adapted for the purpose of inflicting serious bodily injury or death by striking a person with the instrument;  

(2) "Crime of violence" includes any degree of murder, voluntary manslaughter, aggravated rape, rape, especially aggravated robbery, aggravated robbery, burglary, aggravated assault or aggravated kidnapping;  

(6) "Immediate vicinity" refers to the area within the person's immediate control within which the person has ready access to the ammunition;  

(7) "Knife" means any bladed hand instrument that is capable of inflicting serious bodily injury or death by cutting or stabbing a person with the instrument;  
 
(8) "Knuckles" means any instrument that consists of finger rings or guards made of a hard substance and that is designed, made or adapted for the purpose of inflicting serious bodily injury or death by striking a person with a fist enclosed in the knuckles;  
 
(14) "Switchblade knife" means any knife that has a blade which opens automatically by:  
  (A) Hand pressure applied to a button or other device in the handle; or  
  (B) Operation of gravity or inertia;
 
[Acts 1989, ch. 591, 1; 1990, ch. 1029, 1; 2001, ch. 375, 1, 2.]

 

*

39-17-1302. Prohibited weapons.

(a)  A person commits an offense who intentionally or knowingly possesses, manufactures, transports, repairs or sells:  
 
(7) A switchblade knife or knuckles; or  

(8) Any other implement for infliction of serious bodily injury or death which has no common lawful purpose.  
 
(b)  It is a defense to prosecution under this section that the person's conduct:  

  (1) Was incident to the performance of official duty and pursuant to military regulations in the army, navy, air force, coast guard or marine service of the United States or the Tennessee national guard, or was incident to the performance of official duty in a governmental law enforcement agency or a penal institution;  

  (2) Was incident to engaging in a lawful commercial or business transaction with an organization identified in subdivision (b)(1);  

  (4) Was incident to using the weapon in a manner reasonably related to a lawful dramatic performance or scientific research;  

  (5) Was incident to displaying the weapon in a public museum or exhibition;  

  (6) Was licensed by the state of Tennessee as a manufacturer, importer or dealer in weapons; provided, that the manufacture, import, purchase, possession, sale or disposition of weapons is authorized and incident to carrying on the business for which licensed and is for scientific or research purposes or sale or disposition to the organization designated in subdivision (b)(1); or  

(c)  It is an affirmative defense to prosecution under this section which the person must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that:  

  (1) The person's conduct was relative to dealing with the weapon solely as a curio, ornament or keepsake, and if the weapon is a type described in subdivisions (a)(1)-(5), that it was in a nonfunctioning condition and could not readily be made operable; or  

  (2) The possession was brief and occurred as a consequence of having found the weapon or taken it from an aggressor.  
 
 [Acts 1989, ch. 591, 1; 1990, ch. 1029, 2, 11; 2001, ch. 375, 3, 4; 2002, ch. 849, 5.]



*

39-17-1306. Carrying weapons during judicial proceedings.

(a)  No person shall intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly carry on or about the person while inside any room in which judicial proceedings are in progress any weapon prohibited by 39-17-1302(a), for the purpose of going armed; provided, that if the weapon carried is a firearm, the person is in violation of this section regardless of whether such weapon is carried for the purpose of going armed.  

 (b)  Any person violating subsection (a) commits a Class E felony.  
 
 (c)  The provisions of subsection (a) shall not apply to any person who:  

  (1) Is in the actual discharge of official duties as a law enforcement officer, or is employed in the army, air force, navy, coast guard or marine service of the United States or any member of the Tennessee national guard in the line of duty and pursuant to military regulations, or is in the actual discharge of official duties as a guard employed by a penal institution, or as a bailiff, marshal or other court officer who has responsibility for protecting persons or property or providing security; or  

  (2) Has been directed by a court to bring the firearm for purposes of providing evidence.  

[Acts 1989, ch. 591, 1; 1990, ch. 1029, 5; 2000, ch. 988, 2.]

 


*

39-17-1307. Unlawful carrying or possession of a weapon.

(a) (1)  A person commits an offense who carries with the intent to go armed a firearm, a knife with a blade length exceeding four inches (4"), or a club.  

(2) An offense under subdivision (a)(1) is a Class C misdemeanor, except it is a Class A misdemeanor if the person's carrying of a handgun occurred at a place open to the public where one (1) or more persons were present.  

(b) (1)  A person commits an offense who possesses a handgun and:  

    (A) Has been convicted of a felony involving the use or attempted use of force, violence or a deadly weapon; or  

    (B) Has been convicted of a felony drug offense.  

(c) (1)  A person commits an offense who possesses any deadly weapon with intent to employ it in the commission of or escape from an offense.  
 
[Acts 1989, ch. 591, 1; 1990, ch. 1029, 6.]

 


*

39-17-1308. Defenses to unlawful possession or carrying of a weapon.

(a)  It is a defense to the application of 39-17-1307 if the possession or carrying was:  

(1) Of an unloaded rifle, shotgun or handgun not concealed on or about the person and the ammunition for the weapon was not in the immediate vicinity of the person or weapon;  

(2) By a person authorized to possess or carry a firearm pursuant to 39-17-1315 or 39-17-1351;  

(3) At the person's:  
  (A) Place of residence;  
  (B) Place of business; or  
  (C) Premises;  

(4) Incident to lawful hunting, trapping, fishing, camping, sport shooting or other lawful activity;  
 
(5) By a person possessing a rifle or shotgun while engaged in the lawful protection of livestock from predatory animals;  

(6) By a Tennessee valley authority officer who holds a valid commission from the commissioner of safety pursuant to this part while such officer is in the performance of the officer's official duties;  
 
(7) By a state, county or municipal judge or any federal judge or any federal or county magistrate;  
 
(8) By a person possessing a club/baton who holds a valid state security officer/guard registration card as a private security officer/guard, issued by the commissioner, and who also has certification that such officer has had training in the use of club/baton which is valid and issued by a person certified to give training in the use of clubs/batons;  
 
(9) By any person possessing a club/baton who holds a certificate that the person has had training in the use of a club/baton for self-defense which is valid and issued by a certified person authorized to give training in the use of clubs/batons, and is not prohibited from purchasing a firearm under any local, state or federal laws; or  

(10) By any out-of-state, full-time, commissioned law enforcement officer who holds a valid commission card from the appropriate out-of-state law enforcement agency and a photo identification; provided, that if no such valid commission card and photo identification are retained, then it shall be unlawful for such officer to carry firearms in this state and the provisions of this section shall not apply. The defense provided by this subpart shall only be applicable if the state where the out-of-state officer is employed has entered into a reciprocity agreement with this state that allows a full-time, commissioned law enforcement officer in Tennessee to lawfully carry or possess a weapon in such other state.  
 
(b)  The defenses described in this section are not available to persons described in 39-17-1307(b)(1).  [convicted felons]

 [Acts 1989, ch. 591, 1; 1990, ch. 1029, 7; 1993, ch. 200, 1; 1996, ch. 1009, 20, 21; 1997, ch. 476, 3; 1999, ch. 295, 1; 2003, ch. 144, 2.]



*

39-17-1309. Carrying weapons on school property.

(a)  As used in this section, "weapon of like kind" includes razors and razor blades, except those used solely for personal shaving, and any sharp pointed or edged instrument, except unaltered nail files and clips and tools used solely for preparation of food, instruction and maintenance.  
 
(b) (1)  It is an offense for any person to possess or carry, whether openly or concealed, with the intent to go armed, any firearm, explosive, explosive weapon, bowie knife, hawk bill knife, ice pick, dagger, slingshot, leaded cane, switchblade knife, blackjack, knuckles or any other weapon of like kind, not used solely for instructional or school-sanctioned ceremonial purposes, in any public or private school building or bus, on any public or private school campus, grounds, recreation area, athletic field or any other property owned, used or operated by any board of education, school, college or university board of trustees, regents or directors for the administration of any public or private educational institution.  

(2) A violation of this subsection (b) is a Class E felony.  
 
(c) (1)  It is an offense for any person to possess or carry, whether openly or concealed, any firearm, not used solely for instructional or school-sanctioned ceremonial purposes, in any public or private school building or bus, on any public or private school campus, grounds, recreation area, athletic field or any other property owned, used or operated by any board of education, school, college or university board of trustees, regents or directors for the administration of any public or private educational institution. It is not an offense under this subsection (c) for a nonstudent adult to possess a firearm, if such firearm is contained within a private vehicle operated by the adult and is not handled by such adult, or by any other person acting with the expressed or implied consent of such adult, while such vehicle is on school property.  

(2) A violation of this subsection (c) is a Class B misdemeanor.  
 
(d) (1)  Each chief administrator of a public or private school shall display in prominent locations about the school a sign, at least six inches (6") high and fourteen inches (14") wide, stating:  
 
FELONY. STATE LAW PRESCRIBES A MAXIMUM PENALTY OF SIX (6) YEARS IMPRISONMENT AND A FINE NOT TO EXCEED THREE THOUSAND DOLLARS ($3,000) FOR CARRYING WEAPONS ON SCHOOL PROPERTY.  
 
(2) As used in this subsection (d), "prominent locations" about a school includes, but is not limited to, sports arenas, gymnasiums, stadiums and cafeterias.  
 
(e)  The provisions of subsections (b) and (c) do not apply to the following persons:  
 
(1) Persons employed in the army, air force, navy, coast guard or marine service of the United States or any member of the Tennessee national guard when in discharge of their official duties and acting under orders requiring them to carry arms or weapons;  
 
(2) Civil officers of the United States in the discharge of their official duties;  

(3) Officers and soldiers of the militia and the national guard when called into actual service;  
 
(4) Officers of the state, or of any county, city or town, charged with the enforcement of the laws of the state, when in the discharge of their official duties;  
 
(5) Any pupils who are members of the reserve officers training corps or pupils enrolled in a course of instruction or members of a club or team, and who are required to carry arms or weapons in the discharge of their official class or team duties;  
 
(6) Any private police employed by the administration or board of trustees of any public or private institution of higher education in the discharge of their duties; and  
 
(7) Any registered security officer/guard who meets the requirements of title 62, chapter 35, and who is discharging such officer's official duties.  

[Acts 1989, ch. 591, 1; 1990, ch. 1029, 8; 1991, ch. 510, 1-3; 1996, ch. 1009, 24.]

 



*

39-17-1310. Affirmative defense to carrying weapons on school property.

It is an affirmative defense to prosecution under 39-17-1309(a)-(d) that the person's behavior was in strict compliance with the requirements of one (1) of the following classifications:  
 
(1) A person hunting during the lawful hunting season on lands owned by any public or private educational institution and designated as open to hunting by the administrator of the educational institution;  
 
(2) A person possessing unloaded hunting weapons while transversing the grounds of any public or private educational institution for the purpose of gaining access to public or private lands open to hunting with the intent to hunt on such public or private lands unless the lands of the educational institution are posted prohibiting such entry;  
(3) A person possessing guns or knives when conducting or attending "gun and knife shows" and such program has been approved by the administrator of the educational institution; or  
 
(4) A person entering the property for the sole purpose of delivering or picking up passengers and who does not remove, utilize or allow to be removed or utilized any weapon from the vehicle.  

[Acts 1989, ch. 591, 1; 1991, ch. 510, 4.]

 


*

39-17-1311. Carrying weapons on public parks, playgrounds, civic centers and other public recreational buildings and grounds.

(a)  It is an offense for any person to possess or carry, whether openly or concealed, with the intent to go armed, any weapon prohibited by 39-17-1302(a), not used solely for instructional, display or sanctioned ceremonial purposes, in or on the grounds of any public park, playground, civic center or other building facility, area or property owned, used or operated by any municipal, county or state government, or instrumentality thereof, for recreational purposes.  
 
(b)  The provisions of subsection (a) shall not apply to the following persons:  
 
(1) Persons employed in the army, air force, navy, coast guard or marine service of the United States or any member of the Tennessee national guard when in discharge of their official duties and acting under orders requiring them to carry arms or weapons;  
 
(2) Civil officers of the United States in the discharge of their official duties;  
 
(3) Officers and soldiers of the militia and the national guard when called into actual service;  
 
(4) Officers of the state, or of any county, city or town, charged with the enforcement of the laws of the state, in the discharge of their official duties;  
 
(5) Any pupils who are members of the reserve officers training corps or pupils enrolled in a course of instruction or members of a club or team, and who are required to carry arms or weapons in the discharge of their official class or team duties;  
 
(6) Any private police employed by the municipality, county, state or instrumentality thereof in the discharge of their duties; and  
 
(7) Also, only to the extent a person strictly conforms such person's behavior to the requirements of one (1) of the following classifications:  
 
(A) A person hunting during the lawful hunting season on lands owned by any municipality, county, state or instrumentality thereof and designated as open to hunting by law or by the appropriate official;  
 
(B) A person possessing unloaded hunting weapons while transversing the grounds of any such public recreational building or property for the purpose of gaining access to public or private lands open to hunting with the intent to hunt on the public or private lands unless the public recreational building or property is posted prohibiting such entry;  
 
(C) A person possessing guns or knives when conducting or attending "gun and knife shows" when such program has been approved by the administrator of the recreational building or property;  
 
(D) A person entering the property for the sole purpose of delivering or picking up passengers and who does not remove any weapon from the vehicle or utilize it in any manner;  
 
(E) A person who possesses or carries a firearm for the purpose of sport or target shooting and sport or target shooting is permitted in such park or recreational area; or  
 
(8) A registered security officer/guard, who meets the requirements of title 62, chapter 35, while in the performance of such officer's duties;  
 
At such time as such person's behavior no longer strictly conforms to one (1) of such classifications, such person shall be subject to the provisions of subsection (a).  
 
(c) (1)  Each chief administrator of public recreational property shall display in prominent locations about such place a sign, at least six inches (6") high and fourteen inches (14") wide, stating:  
 
MISDEMEANOR. STATE LAW PRESCRIBES A MAXIMUM PENALTY OF ELEVEN (11) MONTHS AND TWENTY-NINE (29) DAYS AND A FINE NOT TO EXCEED TWO THOUSAND FIVE HUNDRED DOLLARS ($2,500) FOR CARRYING WEAPONS ON OR IN PUBLIC RECREATIONAL PROPERTY.  
 
(2) As used in this subsection (c), "prominent locations" about public recreational property includes, but is not limited to, all entrances to such property, any such building or structure located on such property, such as restrooms, picnic areas, sports facilities, welcome centers, gift shops, playgrounds, swimming pools, restaurants and parking lots.  
(3) The legislative body of any municipality or committee appointed by such body to regulate public recreational property may exempt public recreational property located within its jurisdiction from the requirements of subdivision (c)(1).  
 
(d)  A violation of this section is a Class A misdemeanor.  

[Acts 1989, ch. 591, 1; 1990, ch. 1029, 9; 1993, ch. 480, 1-3; 1996, ch. 1009, 23.]




*

39-17-1322. Defenses.

A person shall not be charged with or convicted of a violation under this part if the person possessed, displayed or employed a handgun in justifiable self-defense or in justifiable defense of another during the commission of a crime in which that person or the other person defended was a victim.  

[Acts 1994, ch. 943, 1.]

 


*

39-17-1351. Handgun carry permits.

(a)  The citizens of this state have a right to keep and bear arms for their common defense; but the general assembly has the power, by law, to regulate the wearing of arms with a view to prevent crime.  
 
(b)  Except as provided in subsection (r), any resident of Tennessee who is a United States citizen or permanent lawful resident, as defined by 55-50-102(30), who has reached twenty-one (21) years of age, may apply to the department of safety for a handgun carry permit...

(n) (1)  Except as provided in subdivision (n)(2), a permit issued pursuant to this section shall be good for four (4) years and shall entitle the permit holder to carry any handgun or handguns that the permit holder legally owns or possesses. The permit holder shall have the permit in the holder's immediate possession at all times when carrying a handgun and shall display the permit on demand of a law enforcement officer...

(r) (1)  A facially valid handgun permit, firearms permit, weapons permit or license issued by another state shall be valid in this state according to its terms and shall be treated as if it is a handgun permit issued by this state; provided, however, the provisions of this subsection (r) shall not be construed to authorize the holder of any such out-of-state permit or license to carry, in this state, any firearm or weapon other than a handgun.  
 
(2) For a person to lawfully carry a handgun in this state based upon a permit or license issued in another state, the person must be in possession of the permit or license at all times such person carries a handgun in this state.  
 
[Acts 1996, ch. 905, 3; 1997, ch. 476, 1; 2000, ch. 947, 8C; 2001, ch. 218, 1; 2002, ch. 601, 1; 2003, ch. 300, 1, 2; 2003, ch. 349, 1, 2; 2004, ch. 483, 1, 2; 2004, ch. 776, 1; 2005, ch. 343, 1; 2005, ch. 423, 1.]




* * * * * *

 Tennessee Case Law (as of 1996):

- "The general assembly has the power to prohibit the keeping
  or bearing of weapons dangerous to the peace and safety of
  the citizenry." (1840; 1878)
- "The constitutional right to bear arms refers only to
  military arms or arms useful in the common defense."
  (1840; 1872)
- "The purpose of the former provisions was to discourage the
  using of certain weapons which tend to lead to crime."
  (1957)
- "The terms 'other knife or weapon of like form, shape, or
  size of a bowie knife or Arkansas toothpick,' used in the
  former provisions were not too indefinite to be
  enforced..." (1844; 1928)
- "It was not necessary to a conviction under the former
  provisions that the weapon carried be concealed about the
  person, except if it was a razor..." (1914)
- "Butterfly or Balisong knives are not switchblades..."
  (1986)
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