On July 1, 2021, Tennessee law will permit a large majority of citizens to carry a loaded handgun on their person, openly or concealed, without having to possess a permit. This new law does NOT affect the carrying of rifles or shotguns, ONLY handguns. Historically, a handgun carry permit (either enhanced or concealed) was required to possess a loaded handgun in public, but now those persons who meet the following requirements may carry a handgun, either openly or concealed:

  • The subject is 21 or older (18+ if active military service or honorably discharged);
  • The subject is in lawful possession of the handgun; and
  • The subject is in a place where they are lawfully present.

The current law does not mandate citizens to complete a safety or training course; therefore, many citizens will not know what to do when interacting with law enforcement. This poses a serious safety concern for both the citizens and law enforcement. Citizens who choose to carry a firearm must have a level of understanding about both the relevant Tennessee state laws regarding firearms and how to handle and operate a firearm safely. Carrying and handling a firearm requires great care and caution because the careless handling of a firearm can result in a serious bodily injury or the death of an innocent bystander.

The Memphis Police Department strongly encourages citizens who want to lawfully carry a handgun to seek a permit to carry. Please click on the following link to be directed to the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security to learn more about obtaining a handgun carry permit.  Handgun Carry Permit Information.

The Shelby County Sheriff’s Department offers free handgun safety classes that provide attendees instruction on safe and proper weapons handling techniques, ways to carry and secure handguns, and a review of state law regarding when you can and cannot use deadly force. More importantly, the class provides instruction on proper handgun safety during interactions with law enforcement officers. Each class is led by certified Shelby County Sheriff Deputies, the same instructors who instruct Deputy Sheriffs. To register for future classes, call or text the SCSO Training Academy at 901-562-3059 or e-mail

Even though Tennessee law has long allowed those with a handgun carry permit to carry either openly or concealed, there may now be more persons openly carrying a firearm. In turn, the public, already apprehensive of seeing armed individuals, may result in an increase in 911 calls to report the subject. The Tennessee Supreme Court has previously held that simply being armed in public alone is not a legal basis for officers to detain someone. Therefore, should you feel the need to report an armed individual, it is critically important that you share with the call-taker what you perceive to be the criminal conduct you are reporting. This information will aid the call-taker in dispatching the information to officers in the field. As this new law takes effect, Chief Cerelyn Davis will remain committed to working with our local law enforcement partners, the media, and community stakeholders to ensure that the public is educated on this new law in terms of compliance, and more importantly, how to safely interact with law enforcement while armed. While supporting the 2nd Amendment and law-abiding citizen’s rights to carry a firearm, Chief Davis urges citizens to seek training on how to safely handle firearms and guidance on when one may use a firearm to protect themselves or others. Just as there is a requirement to obtain a license to drive an automobile in Tennessee, which ensures your ability to operate a vehicle and test your knowledge about traffic laws, there should be similar common-sense requirements before a person may carry a firearm in public.