Preemption Statute

Tennessee Code Annotated section 39-17-1314(a) states:

[T]he general assembly preempts the whole field of the regulation of firearms, ammunition, or components of firearms or ammunition, or combinations thereof including, but not limited to, the use, purchase, transfer, taxation, manufacture, ownership, possession, carrying, sale, acquisition, gift, devise, licensing, registration, storage, and transportation thereof, to the exclusion of all county, city, town, municipality, or metropolitan government law, ordinances, resolutions, enactments or regulation. No county, city, town, municipality, or metropolitan government nor any local agency, department, or official shall occupy any part of the field regulation of firearms, ammunition or components of firearms or ammunition, or combinations thereof.

Exceptions

Local regulation is permitted where explicitly provided by Tennessee Code Annotated section 39-17-1314(b) or other state laws.1 Subsection (b) generally allows local regulation of:

  • The carrying of firearms by local government employees or independent contractors when acting in the course and scope of their employment or contract;
  • The discharge of firearms within the limits of the city, county, town municipality or metropolitan government;
  • The location of shooting ranges; and
  • The enforcement of state or federal firearm and ammunition laws.

Local governments may prohibit the possession of weapons if in compliance with specific signage requirements set forth in Tenn. Code Ann. section 39-17-1359(b), including gun possession by any person with a Tennessee handgun carry permit if certain security measures are in place pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. section 39-17-1359 (g), at meetings conducted by, or on property owned, operated, managed or under the control of the government entity.2

Interpretation

As of the date this page was last updated, Giffords Law Center is not aware of any significant cases interpreting Tennessee’s preemption statutes.

However, the Tennessee Attorney General has addressed whether local governments may prohibit the possession of handguns or long guns on publicly owned property.3 Reviewing the provisions of both Tennessee Code Annotated sections 39-17-1314(a) and 39-17-1359, the Attorney General opined that although section 39-17-1314(a) precludes local government entities from regulating firearm possession, localities do have the authority to regulate the possession of firearms – both handguns and long guns – on property owned or controlled by a local government.4 The Attorney General has also opined that while municipal regulations are permitted under Tenn. Code Ann. § 57-5-106 to regulate the sale of beer via a permit process, a local jurisdiction cannot use this process to restrict a person from possessing a firearm on the premises of an establishment with a permit to sell beer, as section 39-17-1314(a) prohibits such regulation.5

Other Statutory Provisions

Tennessee law prohibits local governments from regulating the possession, transportation or storage of a firearm or firearm ammunition by a handgun carry permit holder in such person’s vehicle while utilizing public or private parking areas.6

Under Tennessee law, municipalities or counties do not have authority to prohibit, by resolution adopted by a majority vote of its legislative body, persons authorized to carry a concealed handgun from possessing the handgun while within a public park that is owned or operated by the municipality or county.7

Tennessee law authorizes parties to bring suit against local governments if they are adversely affected by an ordinance, resolution, policy, rule, or other enactment that is adopted or enforced by the local government, or its agencies or officers, in violation of the state’s preemption law.8

Finally, Tennessee law prohibits local municipalities from enforcing an ordinance that prohibits discharging a firearm within the local municipality in instances where it can be shown that the firearm was discharged for purposes of self-defense or to otherwise prevent the commission of a crime:9

  • (a) 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.
  • (b) A person who discharges a firearm within the geographical limits of a municipality shall not be deemed to have violated any ordinance in effect or be subject to any citation or fine the municipality may impose for discharging a firearm within the limits of the municipality if it is determined that when the firearm was discharged the person was acting in justifiable self-defense, defense of property, defense of another, or to prevent a criminal offense from occurring.

Immunity

For state laws prohibiting the filing of certain types of lawsuits against the gun industry and shooting ranges, see our page on Immunity Statutes in Tennessee.

Notes
  1. Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-1314(a). ⤴︎
  2. Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-1359(g)(1). These requirements do not apply to specified buildings, including schools, colleges or universities, libraries, licensed mental health and substance abuse facilities, law enforcement agency buildings, and courtrooms. Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-1359(g)(2). ⤴︎
  3. Op. Att’y Gen. 04-020, 2004 Tenn. AG LEXIS 20 (Feb. 9, 2004). ⤴︎
  4. Opinion No. 04-020, at *1-*2, *6. ⤴︎
  5. Op. Att’y Gen. 09-118, 2009 Tenn. AG LEXIS 154 (June 12, 2009). ⤴︎
  6. Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-1313(a). ⤴︎
  7. Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-1311. ⤴︎
  8. Tenn. Code Ann. § 9-17-1314. ⤴︎
  9. Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-1322(b). ⤴︎