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Authority for Officer to Carry Firearms

Reference Number: MTAS-395
Reviewed Date: 09/24/2021

Authority of Law Enforcement Officers to Carry Firearms
T.C.A. § 39-17-1315 authorizes "any" law enforcement officer, police officer, county magistrate, retired police officer, and certain Tennessee Emergency Management Agency employees to carry handguns at all times, when authorized to do so by written directive of the chief law enforcement officer of the jurisdiction. A copy of the written directive must be retained by the issuing jurisdiction. This authorization also depends upon such officers completing and continuing to complete annually an eight-hour firearms training course. However, retired police officers are exempt from the firearms training requirement.

T.C.A. § 39-17-1350 authorizes law enforcement officers to carry firearms at all times and all places, while on or off duty, unless otherwise restricted by federal law, lawful orders of a court, or the "written directives" of the executive supervisor of the employing agency. A "law enforcement officer" for the purposes of this statute is "a person who is a full-time employee of the state in a position authorized by the laws of this state to carry a firearm and to make arrests for violations of some or all of the laws of this state, or a full-time police officer who has been certified by the peace officer standards and training commission." However, this law expressly does not extend to a law enforcement officer who:

  • carries a firearm onto school grounds or in a school building unless the officer immediately notifies the principal or appropriate administrative staff;
  • is consuming or is under the influence of alcoholic beverages or a controlled substance; and
  • is not attending a judicial proceeding and is not engaged in the actual discharge of official duties as a law enforcement officer.

It is not clear whether the definition of "law enforcement officer" in T.C.A. § 39-17-1350 applies to T.C.A. § 39-17-1315.

Commissioned reserve or auxiliary police officers may carry firearms in the same manner and to the same extent as a full-time law enforcement officer if authorized to do so in writing by the chief of police. T.C.A. § 39-17-1350.