Effective July 1, 2021, Tennessee law will allow residents who are at least 21 years old (or at least 18 years old and in the active military or an honorably discharged veteran) to carry a handgun, open or concealed, without a handgun carry permit. Of course, the handgun carrier must obtain it lawfully and not be barred from possessing it. Under the new law, in order to carry without a permit the person must not be convicted of stalking, driving under the influence 2 or more times within prior 10 years or once within the prior five years, be adjudicated as a mental defective, have been judicially committed/hospitalized in a mental institution, or have a court-appointed conservator by reason of a mental defect.
So, given the provisions of Tennessee’s new permitless carry law, the question is: Should you obtain or maintain your Enhanced Handgun Carry Permit or Concealed Handgun Carry Permit in the future?
First of all, it’s important to understand that Tennessee’s permitless carry law retains the present Enhanced Handgun Carry Permit and Concealed Handgun Permit processes—those permits aren’t going away. In doing so, the law maintains those areas within the state that require actual permits in order to lawfully carry a handgun. Of course, private persons, businesses and government entities may still restrict specific areas where handguns may be carried, and they may also restrict how they may be carried, open or concealed, by posting the restrictions.
However, the law still allows only Enhanced or Concealed Handgun Carry Permit holders to possess a handgun within many areas of the state, and excludes permitless carry in these areas.
In particular, only Enhanced and Concealed Handgun Permit holders may legally carry within a public park, natural area, nature trail, greenway, waterway, or another similar public place that is owned/operated by the state, county, municipality, or their related agencies.
Those without carry permits can be criminally charged with illegally carrying a firearm with the intent to go armed as well as illegally carrying in these particular locations.
Federal parks and recreational areas most often adopt and recognize the handgun carry permit requirements of the states in which they are located, so one can presume the same handgun carry permit requirements and restrictions being imposed on such Federal properties within Tennessee.
As added examples, employees of Tennessee public institutions of higher learning may carry in a concealed manner only with Enhanced Handgun Carry Permits. Also, private K-12 schools and private/non-profit institutions of higher learning may allow only Enhanced Handgun Carry Permit holders to carry on their properties under the law. These areas are excluded, then, under the permitless carry law.
Another reason to obtain or maintain your Enhanced or Concealed Handgun Carry Permit has to do with the concept of “reciprocity,” or the willingness of other states to recognize your handgun carry rights and responsibilities as you travel to or through those states. Far and away, the willingness of states to recognize the handgun carry rights of other states’ citizens depends upon on the issuance of some type of actual license or permit. For instance, Tennessee recognizes the holder of another state’s valid handgun permit, firearm permit, weapons permit or license and treats such as if it is a handgun permit issued by Tennessee. However, the
person must be in possession of the out-of-state permit or license at all times such person carries a handgun in Tennessee. Without an actual state-issued permit, there is no recognition of another citizen’s handgun carry rights.
Tennessee’s official government website regarding handgun reciprocity lists 37 states as recognizing Tennessee’s Enhanced Handgun Carry Permit, and 34 states recognizing Tennessee’s Concealed Handgun Carry Permit.
It is unknown—and highly uncertain—whether any other states would recognize someone’s right to carry a handgun solely pursuant to the permitless carry provisions of Tennessee’s new law.
Finally, and certainly no less importantly, it’s vital that you know and maintain awareness of Tennessee’s laws regarding the use of deadly force for self-defense and the defense of others. It’s important that you know the requirements for carrying your handgun under state law as well as the requirements for storing your handgun in your vehicle when you are not in it. It’s important that you know the basics regarding the safe handling, storage, cleaning, and maintenance of your handgun so that it is ready and available for use when you absolutely need it. All of these topics and more are addressed in both the Enhanced and Concealed Handgun Carry training courses. Proper awareness and training are a large part of responsibly exercising one’s handgun carry rights.
In sum, there are several very good reasons to obtain or to maintain your Enhanced or Concealed Handgun Carry Permit once the Tennessee permitless carry law goes into effect on July 1, 2021. If you want to maximize your carry rights, and especially if you are an “outdoors person” intending to carry in Tennessee’s state and federal parks, nature trails, greenways and waterways or any other similar public place, a handgun carry permit is definitely the way to go. Also, if you want to maximize the number of other states in which to have your gun carry rights recognized, a handgun carry permit is an absolute necessity.
Finally, if you want to have a reliable resource for understanding your legal rights and responsibilities for carrying a handgun and properly using it in self-defense, getting the necessary knowledge and training through the handgun carry permitting process is invaluable.