Citation(s) from the GunPolicy.org literature library
State of Tennessee. 2010 ‘Article I, Section 24 of the Tennessee Constitution.’ Other Laws & Policies. San Francisco, CA: Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. 2 December
State Right to Bear Arms in Tennessee
Article I, Section 24 of the Constitution of the State of Tennessee states "[t]hat the sure and certain defense of a free people, is a well regulated militia; and, as standing armies in time of peace are dangerous to freedom, they ought to be avoided as far as the circumstances and safety of the community will admit; and that in all cases the military shall be kept in strict subordination to the civil authority." Article I, Section 26 provides "[t]hat the citizens of this State have a right to keep and to bear arms for their common defense; but the Legislature shall have power, by law, to regulate the wearing of arms with a view to prevent crime."
Tennessee law also provides, in a statute related to concealed handgun permitting, that "[t]he citizens of this state have a right to keep and bear arms for their common defense; but the general assembly has the power, by law, to regulate the wearing of arms with a view to prevent crime."
In Andrews v. State, the Supreme Court of Tennessee examined the scope of article I, § 26 in connection with a statute prohibiting the carrying of "a dirk, swordcane, Spanish stiletto, belt or pocket pistol or revolver." The case arose in the context of several criminal defendants' motions to quash their indictments under this law, where the indictments charged that each of the defendants carried a pistol. Defendants argued that the prohibition on the carrying of deadly weapons violated their rights under article I, § 26.
The supreme court held that the challenged statute did not violate article I, § 26, upholding the right of the Legislature to prohibit the carrying of firearms. The court distinguished between the keeping of arms, which cannot be prohibited, and the right to use them, in light of the second clause of article I, § 26 (providing that the Legislature has the power to regulate the wearing of arms with a view to prevent crime). Referencing this clause, the supreme court concluded that the wearing or carrying of arms may be restricted, provided the regulation bears "some well defined relation to the prevention of crime." [Italics in original.]
In 1928, however, the Supreme Court of Tennessee revisited the scope of the state "right to keep and to bear arms" in the context of a municipal ordinance prohibiting the carrying of a pistol. In Glasscock v. City of Chattanooga, the supreme court, relying on Andrews, concluded that the ordinance amounted to a complete prohibition on the constitutional right, given that the ordinance prohibited the carrying of any pistol. The court rejected Chattanooga's argument that the ordinance merely charged a violation of the same activity that was prohibited under a state statute, noting that the court had previously held that the exception for possession of an "Army or Navy pistol carried openly in the hand" must be read into the state statute to sustain its constitutionality, and therefore an indictment under the state law was invalid unless it charged that the pistol carried was not such a weapon.
The Tennessee Attorney General recently opined that article 1, § 26's provision granting the state the power to regulate the wearing of arms with a view to prevent crime "affords the legislature with substantial latitude" to pass laws that regulate the wearing of firearms…