Tennessee Attorney General updates formal opinions to address change in Tennessee law regarding definition of a firearm

In May 2019, the Tennessee Legislature passed Public Chapter 279 which changed the definition of the term “firearm” under Tennessee law to more closely match the long standing and more commonly known definition of a “firearm” as it has existed since 1968 under federal law.  The prior Tennessee definition created unnecessary confusion particularly since Tennessee statutes had multiple different definitions for the term “firearm”.

Tennessee Firearms Association worked with state legislative sponsors to resolve this confusion changing the Tennessee definition of a firearm to include the federal exception which provided that the term “firearm” does not include for most purposes items which federal law had classified for many decades as antiques.

Federal law had defined an antique as “any firearm (including any firearm with a matchlock, flintlock, percussion cap, or similar type of ignition system) manufactured in or before 1898″ and included modern replicas such as black powder muzzleloaders.  Under long standing federal law, antique firearms are not regulated by the ATF.

The 2019 change in Tennessee law was primarily designed to align state and federal definitions and to remove an unnecessary ambiguity that existed under Tennessee law.

On October 9, 2019, the Tennessee Attorney General issued Opinion 19-19 which addressed how this change in the definition of a firearm altered Tennessee law.  The Attorney General concluded “[i]n sum, as a result of the passage of Public Chapter 279,the prohibitions in § 39-11-1307 on the possession of firearms and handguns by individuals convicted of felonies and certain misdemeanors no longer apply to antique firearms.”

John Harris

Executive Director


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