Pepper Spray Laws – Tennessee

Tennessee is yet another exemplary state concerning citizens’ possession, carry and use of pepper spray and other defensive sprays. Tennessee has hardly any laws to speak of concerning pepper spray except those that would cover the commission of any crime applicable with any other weapon or implement.

Citizens are entirely free to choose whatever quantity they desire and whatever formula serves their needs best, as long as it is designed and intended to cause no lasting injury.

flag of Tennessee

You can learn all there is to know about Tennessee’s pepper spray laws throughout the rest of this article, and make sure to read through the relevant state statutes included at the end.

Fast Facts

  • Tennessee permits citizens to carry all typical formulations of defensive spray. OC pepper sprays as well as CN and CS tear gases are permitted, as are blends of any of the above.
  • Citizens in Tennessee can carry any quantity of defensive spray that they desire. The state imposes no limits on the size of dispenser or the capacity of said dispenser.
  • Pepper spray and other defensive sprays in Tennessee may be freely bought and sold anywhere such products are available, and purchasers may have pepper spray shipped to them from out of state.
  • Based on the strict interpretation of rules concerning felons in possession of weapons, those with a felony criminal background are likely prohibited from possessing pepper spray in the state of Tennessee.

Overview

Tennessee is a staunchly “pro-spray” state for civilians. Pretty much anything goes when it comes to formulation or capacity, and there are no roadblocks standing in the way of citizens obtaining any such product that they desire, be it from a merchant in the state or purchase from elsewhere.

All typical formulations are a-okay, including OC pepper sprays, as well as both typical formulations of tear gas, including CN and CS. If you want a defensive spray making use of two or more common formulations, that is also permitted.

As always, citizens should only obtain commercial products designed and sold expressly as non-lethal self-defense sprays. Stick with major manufacturers and you should be fine. It is important that any product pass muster as a self-defense spray because it will cause no lasting injury.

Citizens living in or visiting Tennessee are also able to carry any quantity they choose, from the smallest pocket-sized sprayer to the largest crowd control device. So long as it does not fall under the auspices of a destructive device as a sort of grenade or explosive shell you will have no issues.

It is worth mentioning that based on a strict interpretation of existing Tennessee laws concerning the possession of weapons by convicted felons and those with a criminal background, they are probably barred from possessing pepper spray as well.

Though not explicitly named as a restricted weapon in said statutes it is likely that pepper spray still qualifies as prohibited from possession. Something to be aware of if you have a record.

Conclusion

Tennessee is an excellent state when it comes to civilian possession and carry of pepper spray. Civilians can choose from any standard formulation that they prefer and carry any quantity they desire.

With pepper spray being so freely available throughout the state and citizens remaining almost totally unburdened when it comes to the selection and carry of such tools there is no reason not to add a quality dispenser full of the hot stuff to your self-defense arsenal.

Relevant State Statutes

39-17-1301. Part definitions.

(…)

(2) “Club” means any instrument that is specially designed, made or adapted for the purpose of inflicting serious bodily injury or death by striking a person with the instrument;

(3) “Crime of violence” includes any degree of murder, voluntary manslaughter, aggravated rape, rape, rape of a child, especially aggravated rape of a child, aggravated sexual battery, especially aggravated robbery, aggravated robbery, burglary, aggravated burglary, especially aggravated burglary, aggravated assault, kidnapping, aggravated kidnapping, especially aggravated kidnapping, carjacking, trafficking for commercial sex act, especially aggravated sexual exploitation, felony child abuse, and aggravated child abuse;

(4)

(A) “Explosive weapon” means any explosive, incendiary or poisonous gas:

(i) Bomb;

(ii) Grenade;

(iii) Rocket;

(iv) Mine; or

(v) Shell, missile or projectile that is designed, made or adapted for the purpose of inflicting serious bodily injury, death or substantial property damage;

(B) “Explosive weapon” also means:

(i) Any breakable container which contains a flammable liquid with a flashpoint of one hundred fifty degrees Fahrenheit (150° F) or less and has a wick or similar device capable of being ignited, other than a device which is commercially manufactured primarily for purposes of illumination; or

(ii) Any sealed device containing dry ice or other chemically reactive substances for the purposes of causing an explosion by a chemical reaction;

(5) “Hoax device” means any device that reasonably appears to be or is purported to be an explosive or incendiary device and is intended to cause alarm or reaction of any type by an official of a public safety agency or a volunteer agency organized to deal with emergencies;

(…)

(8) “Knife” means any bladed hand instrument that is capable of inflicting serious bodily injury or death by cutting or stabbing a person with the instrument;

(9) “Knuckles” means any instrument that consists of finger rings or guards made of a hard substance and that is designed, made or adapted for the purpose of inflicting serious bodily injury or death by striking a person with a fist enclosed in the knuckles;

(10) “Machine gun” means any firearm that is capable of shooting more than two (2) shots automatically, without manual reloading, by a single function of the trigger;

(11) “Mental institution” means a mental health facility, mental hospital, sanitarium, psychiatric facility and any other facility that provides diagnoses by a licensed professional of an intellectual disability or mental illness, including, but not limited to, a psychiatric ward in a general hospital;

(12) “Restricted firearm ammunition” means any cartridge containing a bullet coated with a plastic substance with other than a lead or lead alloy core or a jacketed bullet with other than a lead or lead alloy core or a cartridge of which the bullet itself is wholly composed of a metal or metal alloy other than lead. “Restricted firearm ammunition” does not include shotgun shells or solid plastic bullets;

(13) “Rifle” means any firearm designed, made or adapted to be fired from the shoulder and to use the energy of the explosive in a fixed metallic cartridge to fire a projectile through a rifled bore by a single function of the trigger;

(14) “Short barrel” means a barrel length of less than sixteen inches (16″) for a rifle and eighteen inches (18″) for a shotgun, or an overall firearm length of less than twenty-six inches (26″);

(15) “Shotgun” means any firearm designed, made or adapted to be fired from the shoulder and to use the energy of the explosive in a fixed shotgun shell to fire through a smooth-bore barrel either a number of ball shot or a single projectile by a single function of the trigger;

(16) “Switchblade knife” means any knife that has a blade which opens automatically by:

(A) Hand pressure applied to a button or other device in the handle; or

(B) Operation of gravity or inertia; and

(…)

39-17-1302. Prohibited weapons.

(a) A person commits an offense who intentionally or knowingly possesses, manufactures, transports, repairs or sells:

(1) An explosive or an explosive weapon;

(2) A device principally designed, made or adapted for delivering or shooting an explosive weapon;

(3) A machine gun;

(4) A short-barrel rifle or shotgun;

(5) Hoax device;

(6) Knuckles; or

(7) Any other implement for infliction of serious bodily injury or death that has no common lawful purpose.

(…)

(c) It is an affirmative defense to prosecution under this section that the person must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that:

(1) The person’s conduct was relative to dealing with the weapon solely as a curio, ornament or keepsake, and if the weapon is a type described in subdivisions (a)(1)-(4), that it was in a nonfunctioning condition and could not readily be made operable; or

(2) The possession was brief and occurred as a consequence of having found the weapon or taken it from an aggressor.

(d) It is an exception to the application of subsection (a) that the person acquiring or possessing a weapon described in subdivisions (a)(3) or (a)(4) is in full compliance with the requirements of the National Firearms Act (26 U.S.C. §§  5841-5862).

(…)

(f)

(1) An offense under subdivision (a)(1) is a Class B felony.

(2) An offense under subdivisions (a)(2)-(4) is a Class E felony.

(3) An offense under subdivision (a)(5) is a Class C felony.

(4) An offense under subdivisions (a)(6)-(7) is a Class A misdemeanor.

39-17-1307. Unlawful carrying or possession of a weapon.

(a)

(1) A person commits an offense who carries, with the intent to go armed, a firearm or a club.

(2)

(A) The first violation of subdivision (a)(1) is a Class C misdemeanor, and, in addition to possible imprisonment as provided by law, may be punished by a fine not to exceed five hundred dollars ($500).

(B) A second or subsequent violation of subdivision (a)(1) is a Class B misdemeanor.

(C) A violation of subdivision (a)(1) is a Class A misdemeanor if the person’s carrying of a handgun occurred at a place open to the public where one (1) or more persons were present.

(b)

(1) A person commits an offense who unlawfully possesses a firearm, as defined in § 39-11-106, and:

(A) Has been convicted of a felony crime of violence, an attempt to commit a felony crime of violence, or a felony involving use of a deadly weapon; or

(B) Has been convicted of a felony drug offense.

(2) An offense under subdivision (b)(1)(A) is a Class B felony.

(3) An offense under subdivision (b)(1)(B) is a Class C felony.

(c)

(1) A person commits an offense who possesses a handgun and has been convicted of a felony unless:

(A) The person has been pardoned for the offense;

(B) The felony conviction has been expunged; or

(C) The person’s civil rights have been restored pursuant to title 40, chapter 29, and the restoration order does not specifically prohibit the person from possessing firearms.

(2) An offense under subdivision (c)(1) is a Class E felony.

(d)

(1) A person commits an offense who possesses a deadly weapon other than a firearm with the intent to employ it during the commission of, attempt to commit, or escape from a dangerous offense as defined in § 39-17-1324.

(2) A person commits an offense who possesses any deadly weapon with the intent to employ it during the commission of, attempt to commit, or escape from any offense not defined as a dangerous offense by § 39-17-1324.

(3)

(A) Except as provided in subdivision (d)(3)(B), a violation of this subsection (d) is a Class E felony.

(B) A violation of this subsection (d) is a Class E felony with a maximum fine of six thousand dollars ($6,000), if the deadly weapon is a switchblade knife.

(e)

(1) It is an exception to the application of subsection (a) that a person is carrying or possessing a firearm, loaded firearm, or firearm ammunition in a motor vehicle or boat if the person:

(A) Is not prohibited from possessing or receiving a firearm by 18 U.S.C. § 922(g) or purchasing a firearm by § 39-17-1316; and

(B) Is in lawful possession of the motor vehicle or boat.

(2)

(…)

(3) For purposes of this section, a person does not possess a firearm, including, but not limited to, firearms registered under the National Firearms Act (26 U.S.C. § 5801 et seq.), if the firearm is in a safe or similar container that is securely locked and to which the respondent does not have the combination, keys or other means of normal access.

(4) A violation of subdivision (f)(1) is a Class A misdemeanor and each violation constitutes a separate offense.

(5) If a violation of subdivision (f)(1) also constitutes a violation of § 36-3-625(h) or § 39-13-113(h), the respondent may be charged and convicted under any or all such sections.

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