KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Tennessee’s permitless carry law goes into effect this week following Governor Bill Lee’s signature back in April, creating with it updates to firearms-related laws that police want Tennesseans to know.

The bill, also called “constitutional carry” by the governor, had been introduced by Lee, who in February put his support behind several legislative initiatives.

WATE 6 On Your Side spoke with the Knoxville Police Department about what people should know about the new permitless carry law and related firearms laws.

What is permitless carry in Tennessee?

Permitless carry, which creates an exception to the offense of unlawful carrying of a firearm if a person meets the qualifications for an enhanced handgun carry permit, lawfully possesses a handgun, and is in a place that the person has a right to be. Generally, the new law allows a person to open carry or concealed carry a handgun without a permit if the person is at least 21 years of age and older (or 18 and up I if serving in the military or honorably discharged); doesn’t have any prior felonious crime convictions, and adheres to posted signage prohibiting firearms.

What police say about laws and permitless carry

Knoxville Police said Tuesday that people should be aware of these other laws related to permitless carry:

  • The theft of a firearm is a felony as of July 1, 2021
  • An individual or business may prohibit or restrict weapons by posting specific signage 
  • Permits, either enhanced or concealed, are still required to carry at public parks, greenways, nature trails, etc. 
  • Firearms remain prohibited on school property unless for very specific purposes
  • It is illegal to possess a firearm while under the influence of alcohol or any other controlled substance

People can also be arrested for these unlawful acts cited in TCA 39-17-1307 (f)(c) related to the new permitless carry; these punishable crimes include:

  • A conviction in any court of, a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year (felony);
  • Who is a fugitive from justice;
  • Who is an unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance as defined in section 102 of the Controlled Substance Act;
  • Who has been adjudicated as a mental defective or who has been committed to a mental institution;
  • Who is illegally or unlawfully in the United States;
  • Who, having been a citizen of the United States, has renounced their citizenship;
  • Who has been discharged from the Armed Forces under dishonorable conditions;
  • Who is a subject of a court order that –
    A. was issued after a hearing of which such person received actual notice, and at which such person had an opportunity to participate;
    B. restrains such person from harassing, stalking, or threatening an intimate partner of such person or child of such intimate partner or person, or engaging in other conduct that would place an intimate partner in reasonable fear of bodily injury to the partner or child; and
    C. includes finding that such a person represents a credible threat to the physical safety of such intimate partner or child; or by its terms explicitly prohibits the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against such intimate partner or child that would reasonably be expected to cause bodily injury; or
  • Who has been convicted in any court of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence.

Carrying on your person

It should also be known that a person who is 18 years of age and older may carry a rifle or shotgun if it is not concealed on or about the person and must be unloaded with no ammunition or ammo in the immediate vicinity of the person or firearm.

A person who is between the ages of 18-20 years of age may carry a handgun if it is not concealed on or about the person and must be unloaded with no ammo in the immediate vicinity of the person or gun; unless they meet the military exception to carrying a handgun.

As for posted signage prohibiting firearms, an individual or a business may post “NO FIREARMS ALLOWED” at in prominent locations, including all entrances primarily used by persons entering the property, building, or portion of the property where firearm possession is restricted; they can also post “CONCEALED FIREARMS BY PERMIT ONLY.” If a person is found to violate the posted signage, the offense is punishable by fine only of $500.

Carrying in your vehicle

For carrying in a motor vehicle, a person must be 21 years of age or older (18 years of age or older if serving in the military/honorably discharged) to have a loaded handgun or ammo in the immediate vicinity. Here are the rules for that:

  • The vehicle must be parked where it is allowed to be
  • Kept from ordinary observation if the person is in the vehicle
  • Kept from ordinary observation and locked in the trunk, glove box, or interior of the vehicle or a container securely affixed to the vehicle if the person is not in the vehicle.

What police say you should do if pulled over while legally carrying a firearm

KPD says there are a few general guidelines to follow if a citizen is pulled over while legally possessing a firearm to make it as safe as possible for all involved parties.

  • If you’re pulled over, you should keep your hands on the steering wheel or where they are clearly visible.
  • If it’s night, turn on the interior light if you can.
  • Listen to the officer, who should communicate clearly and early in the interaction why you were stopped and any other expectations.
  • Tell the officer if you have a firearm or any other weapon in the vehicle as well as the location of that weapon. Officers appreciate being told about anything of that nature on the front end.
  • If you need to move to grab something, such as your license, registration, or proof of insurance, communicate that to the officer before making any sudden or unexpected movements.
  • And just in general terms, be honest and respectful throughout the interaction, and the expectation is that officers will return that same honesty and respect. 

Police also said a lot of these guidelines apply to just traffic stops in general as well.