Legal Information: Tennessee

State Gun Laws

May 18, 2022

I have a protection order against the abuser. Can s/he have or buy a gun?

Under Tennessee state law, if you have a protection order that was issued by a state civil court against the abuser and meets federal law requirements, the abuser cannot have a gun in his/her possession, or buy a new gun.1

In order for your protection order to qualify under federal law, the abuser must:

  • be served notice of the court hearing;
    • have an opportunity to attend the court hearing; Note: The abuser does not have to be at the hearing, but s/he has to have the opportunity to come to the hearing;
  • be an “intimate partner” of the victim, which includes:
    • a current or former spouse;
    • a person with whom you share a child; or
    • a person you live with currently or have lived with in the past.2

If your protection order has expired, it is no longer a valid order under federal law, which means the firearm ban also does not apply.

If any of these situations apply to the abuser, it may be illegal for him/her to have a gun. Also, federal laws, which apply to all states, may restrict an abuser’s right to have a gun. Go to Federal Gun Laws to get more information.

1 TN ST § 39-17-1316(a)(1)
2 18 USC § 921(a)(32)

Is there anything I can do to make it more likely that the abuser's gun is taken away when I get a protection order?

While it does not need to be written on your order that the abuser cannot own, buy, or have a gun in order for the federal law to be enforced, it may make it easier if it is written.

Here are a few things that you may be able to ask for to try to make the firearm prohibition clearer:

  1. If the abuser has a gun, tell the judge how many guns s/he has, and if s/he has ever threatened you with a gun(s).
  2. Ask the judge to write into the order for protection that the defendant cannot own, buy or have a gun while the order is in effect.
  3. Before leaving the courthouse, check to make sure that this is written on your order.
  4. It also may be helpful if the judge explains what will happen to the abuser’s guns, who will take them, and where they will be held once you leave the courthouse. If the judge agrees to add language that the abuser cannot keep his/her guns while the order is in effect, you may also want to ask that the judge:
    • require the abuser to give his/her guns to the police, or require the police to go to the abuser’s house and get them;
    • make it clear to both you and the abuser how long the guns will be kept away from the abuser; and
    • order that the police notify you when the guns are returned to the abuser.

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