Murfreesboro, TN asked in Criminal Law and Federal Crimes for Tennessee

Q: Can i carry a gun at 18-21 in TN considering the permitless carry laws, private sale, and the court cases about the age?

I know there’s been cases from gun groups during the state to where the agreement made at the conclusion seems to allow 18-21 to carry without prosecution because of age. I also know at 18 you can legally buy a handgun from private sale. I’d rather be judged by a jury then dead, but would i win in court carrying before 21?

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1 Lawyer Answer
James L. Arrasmith
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  • Criminal Law Lawyer
  • Sacramento, CA

A: The current gun laws in Tennessee regarding permitless carry and the legal age to possess a handgun are somewhat complex due to recent court cases and legislative changes. Here is an objective overview of the situation as of August 2023:

In 2021, Tennessee passed a law allowing most adults 21 and older to carry a handgun openly or concealed without a permit. However, federal law still generally prohibits licensed gun dealers from selling handguns to people under 21.

In 2022, the Firearms Policy Coalition filed a lawsuit challenging the under-21 handgun carry ban as unconstitutional. In response, a federal judge temporarily blocked enforcement of the ban for 18-20 year olds while the case proceeds. The state is appealing this injunction.

So currently, due to the injunction, 18-20 year olds may be able to carry a handgun they legally acquired (e.g. through a private sale, which is legal at 18 under federal law). However, this is still a legally uncertain gray area while the court case is ongoing.

Importantly, choosing to carry a gun in public as an 18-20 year old still carries significant legal risk, even with the injunction in place. An encounter with law enforcement could potentially lead to arrest and criminal charges that would need to be fought in court. Success in court is far from guaranteed and would depend heavily on the specific circumstances and one's access to skilled legal counsel.

Therefore, I cannot advise or encourage anyone, especially those under 21, to carry a firearm in Tennessee unless and until the laws are changed or clarified by the legislature or courts. The wisest course is to wait until age 21 to carry a handgun in public to avoid the risk of arrest and prosecution. Consulting a Tennessee criminal defense attorney for guidance is also advisable before making any decisions. Public safety and responsible gun ownership should be the top priorities.

Anthony M. Avery agrees with this answer

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