Tennessee has modified its laws regarding knives, firearm suppressors (sometimes called “silencers”) and short-barrel rifles and shotguns. Despite these changes in state laws, federal restrictions remain in effect.
Tennessee has long regulated carrying certain knives. In the 19th Century, laws prohibited carrying concealed bowie knives, Arkansas toothpicks or similar knives. In 1943, the statute was modified to prohibit carrying any pocketknife with a blade exceeding 4 inches, in any manner, with intent to go armed.
These laws persisted until recently. Until 2014, Tennessee’s general weapons statute, Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-1307, prohibited carrying knives with blades exceeding 4 inches, with intent to go armed. On July 1, 2014, this statute was amended to delete references to knives.
During the debate on the 2014 amendment, one legislator asked the sponsor if people would be allowed to carry swords. The sponsor acknowledged that it would.
The 2014 change did not completely remove all laws on knives. Several statutes regulate or prohibit possession of knives in specific locations. For example, § 39-17-1309 prohibits carrying weapons on school property. There is a long list of prohibited cutting devices on school property, including various knives, and “any sharp pointed or edged instrument.”
In addition, § 39-17-1359 allows property owners to prohibit possession of weapons on their property, without defining the term “weapons”. Possession of a weapon on properly posted property is a misdemeanor, punishable with a $500 fine only. § 39-17-1359(c).
Changes in Tennessee weapon statutes have not been limited to knives. Tennessee statutes formerly prohibited possession of machine guns, suppressors (“silencers”) and short-barrel rifles and shotguns, except in compliance with the federal National Firearms Act (NFA), § 39-17-1359(d).
Machine guns remain restricted items, but suppressors were removed from restricted list on July 1, 2017. At that time, proposed federal legislation would have “deregulated” suppressors, treating them like standard rifles or shotguns. State legislation would have deleted the NFA requirement, as suppressors would no longer be NFA items.
The proposed federal legislation on suppressors failed. So, Tennessee no longer has a criminal statute prohibiting their possession. However, the federal requirements remain in effect, requiring NFA compliance to legally possess a suppressor under federal law.
Similarly, in July 2022, the legislature removed short-barrel rifles/shotguns from the state list of restricted firearms. Previously, under Tennessee state law, rifles with barrels under 16 inches and shotguns with barrels under 18 inches, required compliance with the NFA. As with suppressors, federal requirements remain in effect to legally possess rifles and shotguns with shorter barrels.
As you can see from this article, Tennessee firearm and knife laws are ever changing and complicated. If you have questions regarding such laws, or restoration of your firearm rights, contact James E. Wagner at 865-546-9321.
James E. Wagner concentrates his practice in areas such as personal injury litigation, workers’ compensation, toxic tort litigation, products liability, firearms law, probate, estate planning and insurance. His varied legal experience helps him analyze and resolve issues in all areas of practice for his clients. He has been privileged to represent many of the same clients over my entire career and handles each case with a view toward a long-term relationship. James provides his clients with reliable, dependable service.