See our Prohibited Purchasers policy summary  for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.

Federal law prohibits certain persons from purchasing or possessing firearms, such as felons, certain domestic abusers, and certain people with a history of mental illness.

Tennessee law prohibits the possession of a firearm by any person:

  • Convicted of a felony involving the use or attempted use of force, violence or a deadly weapon;1
  • Convicted of a felony drug offense;2
  • Convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence while remaining subject to the disabilities of such a conviction;3
  • Possessing a firearm while subject to an order of protection;4
  • Under the influence of alcohol or any controlled substance (handguns only);5 or
  • Prohibited from possessing a firearm under any other provision of federal or state law6

Tennessee prohibits anyone convicted of a felony from possessing a handgun.7

Tennessee prohibits juveniles (persons under age 18) from knowingly possessing a handgun.8

In addition, Tennessee prohibits any person from selling a firearm to any person: 1) convicted of stalking;9 2) addicted to alcohol; 3) ineligible to receive a firearm under federal law; 4) judicially committed to a mental institution; or 5) adjudicated as a mental defective.10

Under Tennessee law, if a person who has been adjudicated as a “mental defective” or judicially committed to a mental institution attempts to purchase a firearm, and the instant check unit of the Tennessee bureau of investigation confirms the person’s record, the unit shall contact, within twenty-four hours, the chief law enforcement officer of the jurisdiction where the attempted purchase occurred for the purpose of initiating an investigation into a possible violation of law.11

For information on the background check process used to enforce these prohibitions, see the Tennessee Background Checks section.

  1. Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-1307(b)(1)(A). ⤴︎
  2. Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-1307(b)(1)(B). ⤴︎
  3. Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-1307(f)(1)(A). The crime of domestic violence, as applies to this section, is defined under federal law, 18 U.S.C. § 921(a)(33). ⤴︎
  4. Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-1307(f)(1)(B). The order of protection must fully comply with federal law, 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(8). ⤴︎
  5. Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-1321(a). ⤴︎
  6. Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-1307(f)(1)(C). ⤴︎
  7. Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-1307(c). ⤴︎
  8. Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-1319(b), (a)(2). ⤴︎
  9. See Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-315. ⤴︎
  10. Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-1316(a)(1). ⤴︎
  11. Tenn. Code Ann. § 38-6-109(f). ⤴︎