Generally, it is a felony for any person to possess or carry firearms, explosives, or any other weapon not solely used for instructional or sanctioned ceremonial purposes on school property. “School property” is broadly defined. Schools are required to post a copy of this Code section in public view. An exception to this law exists for nonstudent adults, allowing them to keep firearms in their car on school property so long as the weapon is hidden. However, it is illegal under federal law, the Gun-Free School Zones Act (18 U.S.C. § 922(q), unless the possessor has a Tennessee “enhanced handgun carry permit.” Tennessee handgun carry permits issued before January 1, 2020 also provide this protection. It is important to note the newly formed distinction between an “enhanced handgun carry permit” and the new “concealed handgun carry permit” (discussed in greater detail infra). Tennessee’s “enhanced handgun carry permit” does not become law until January 1, 2020.
Tennessee has only four defenses to carrying a weapon on school property, all of which require strict compliance in order to apply. In short, these defenses are: (1) lawful hunting; (2) traveling to a lawful hunting area with unloaded hunting weapons; (3) conducting “gun and knife shows;” and (4) entering school property for the sole reason of delivering or picking up passengers while the gun remains hidden in the vehicle. Tennessee imposes misdemeanor liability on anyone over eighteen who knows of a minor student’s possession of a firearm on school property and fails to either report or prevent such illegal possession. See infra about “campus carry” with an enhanced concealed carry license.
Full time employees at institutions of higher learning who have a permit may carry if they provide written notice to the law enforcement agency(ies) and observe certain location limitations. See also Tenn. Code Ann. § 49-7-163 which allows employees of public postsecondary institutions freedom from any adverse or disciplinary action for such person’s transportation and storage of a firearm or firearm ammunition in compliance with § 39-17-1313