Award Winning Client Service, Proven Results

Gun Crimes in Tennessee - The Law and Defenses

You’ve been arrested for a gun crime? Now what?

Person holding black handgun

Tennesseans have a right under the Second Amendment and under the Tennessee Constitution to keep and bear arms. That right is not absolute and the legislature has made possession or use of a firearm a crime in certain instances. Though Tennessee has passed very relaxed gun laws compared to many states, gun crimes carry very serious penalties. This page will help you understand what laws criminalize gun possession or use and what defenses may be available to you or a loved one if charged with a gun crime.

Our Knoxville criminal defense lawyers have a history of defending our clients who have been charged with gun crimes across East Tennessee. 

Carrying or Possession of Weapons

The most basic firearm offense in Tennessee is carrying a firearm “with the intent to go armed.” This statute criminalizes most carrying of guns but provides very broad exceptions. Anyone over 21 years old, who legally owns a firearm and is in a place they are legally allowed to be is excepted from the prohibition on carrying a firearm. Recently, this exception was extended to those ages 18-20 as a result of a lawsuit.

The key part of that exception related to being charged with a crime is whether the person is legally allowed to carry a firearm. There are several common circumstances in which a person may not legally possess a weapon. These include:


  • Anyone who has been convicted of a felony offense, unless pardoned or expunged
  • Anyone committing or attempting to commit a dangerous felony
  • Anyone who has been convicted of domestic violence or is subject to an order of protection
  • Anyone who is an unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance
  • Anyone in the United States illegally
  • Anyone who has been adjudicated as a mental defective or has been committed to a mental institution


Even if legally allowed to carry a firearm, there are certain places that carrying becomes a crime. These include schools, government buildings and land, like parks, jail and prisons, among others. There are several statutes that lay out numerous exceptions to these prohibitions and it is important to analyze each situation carefully to determine if the possession was illegal in the first place, and if so, whether any exception applies.

Criminal Defense In Tennessee Book Cover

Penalties for Gun Crimes

The penalties for gun crimes vary all the way from the least serious offense in Tennessee’s criminal code, a class C misdemeanor, up to the second most serious offense, a class B felony. What penalty applies to what situation is determined by the nature of the offense.


For example, carrying a firearm with the intent to go armed, absent any prior convictions or other aggravating circumstances is a class C misdemeanor, carrying up to a $500 fine and 30 days in jail.


However, carrying a firearm by someone previously convicted of a felony crime of violence or attempt or a felony involving the use of a deadly weapon is a class B felony carrying between 8-30 years in prison.


Additionally, if the firearm was carried during the commission or attempted commission of a dangerous felony, as defined in the statute, additional mandatory minimums from 3-10 years, on top of any other sentences, can apply.

Schedule Your Free Consultation

Common Defenses and Issues in Gun Cases

The gun laws in Tennessee cover numerous statutes and have many exceptions and enhancements, each of which must be considered when defending a gun case. In addition to the correct application of the law it will be important to understand the circumstances that led to both the possession of the weapon and any arrest.


Whether an individual knowingly possessed a weapon, whether someone else actually possessed the weapon, and whether or not the police lawfully searched for and seized the weapon are issues that must be considered. Additionally, a thorough investigation into the facts of the case and any prior convictions will often yield helpful information in defending these types of cases.


In representing individuals charged with gun crimes, we strive to ensure that your rights are protected at every step of the criminal process. This means learning about you and what really happened as early as possible and continuing to investigate the charges throughout the case. It means keeping you informed about the strengths and weaknesses of the state’s case and your defense and helping you make the best decisions possible with the options available, whether that means going to trial, trying to get charges reduced through negotiations or filing motions and litigating legal issues in court.

Dolly Parton Statue at Sevier County Court House
Attorney John Barnes, Attorney Brandon D. Fersten, and Attorney Oscar Butler

Call Us to Discuss Your Gun Case

At Barnes & Fersten, we take defending our client’s seriously and know the serious consequences a gun charge can have to you, your family, and your future. If we take your case, we will make every effort to provide a strong defense and to communicate with you throughout the course of your case. If you have been charged with a gun crime, call us today. You will be able to speak with an attorney, get your questions answered and begin the process of mounting a strong defense to get the best possible outcome in your situation. Call us at 865-805-5703.

What Our Customers Say