Special Provisions re: Public Parks

Persons with a valid handgun carry permit (either enhanced or basic) may carry or possess their handgun on public lands. However, this exemption does not apply if the permit holder possessed the handgun in the immediate vicinity of property that was, at the time of possession, in use by any educational institution for the purpose of conducting an athletic or other school-related event; and the permit holder either knew or should have known such school-related activity was taking place or the permit holder failed to take reasonable steps to leave the area after becoming aware such event was taking place in their immediate vicinity. Both enhanced and basic permit holders may carry or possess their handgun on federally designated national parks, forests, preserves, historic parks, military parks, trails or recreation areas to the extent permitted by federal law. 

Tennessee has a special provision prohibiting the possession or carrying, either openly or concealed, of firearms and other specified weapons, not solely used for instructional, display or sanctioned ceremonial purposes, in or on the grounds of any public park, playground, civic center or other building facility, area or property owned, used or operated by any municipal, county or state government, or instrumentality thereof, for recreational purposes.” This section does not apply to several persons as specified by the statute, however their exception requires strict compliance with the listed classifications. 

Persons employed by any branch of the United States military or any member of the Tennessee national guard, when in discharge of their official duties, and acting under orders requiring them to carry arms or weapons are exempt from this rule. Likewise, civil officers of the United States in discharge of official duties, and officers and soldiers of the militia and national guard, when called into actual service, are exempt. Officers of the state, county, city or town, charged with the enforcement of laws in this state, may carry or possess on such lands while in discharge of official duties. Members of a ROTC unit, those enrolled in a course of instruction, and members of a club or team required to carry arms or weapons in discharge of their official class or team duties are exempt. Any private police employed by the municipality, county, state or instrumentality thereof as well as any registered security guard/officer, while in the discharge of their official duties, are also exempt. 

Exemptions to this rule are also made for persons lawfully hunting during the appropriate season on lands designated open to hunting by law; persons possessing unloaded hunting weapons while traversing public lands for the purpose of gaining access to lands open to hunting (with the intent to hunt on such lands); persons possessing guns or knives when conducting approved “gun and knife shows;” persons entering the property for the sole purpose of picking up passengers who do not remove or utilize the weapon in any manner; and persons possessing or carrying a firearm for the purpose of sport or target shooting in an area where such activities are permitted. 

At any time the person’s behavior no longer strictly conforms with one of these classifications, the person shall be subject to prosecution under this provision. Violation of this section is a Class A misdemeanor.