Ownership of Class III / NFA weapons is legal in Tennessee
Tennessee law does not prohibit the ownership, possession or use of Class III weapons so long as the individual complies with federal law relative to ownership.
The Tennessee statute which authorizes private ownership of Class III or NFA weapons in Tennessee is Section 39-17-1302, which provides a defense to a criminal charge of possession of a “prohibited weapon”. Section 39-17-1302 provides, in relevant part:
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) A firearm silencer;
(6) Hoax device;
(7) A switchblade knife or knuckles; or
(8) Any other implement for infliction of serious bodily injury or death that has no common lawful purpose.
(b) It is a defense to prosecution under this section that the person’s conduct:
(1) Was incident to the performance of official duty and pursuant to military regulations in the army, navy, air force, coast guard or marine service of the United States or the Tennessee national guard, or was incident to the performance of official duty in a governmental law enforcement agency or a penal institution;
(2) Was incident to engaging in a lawful commercial or business transaction with an organization identified in subdivision (b)(1);
(3) Was incident to using an explosive or an explosive weapon in a manner reasonably related to a lawful industrial or commercial enterprise;
(4) Was incident to using the weapon in a manner reasonably related to a lawful dramatic performance or scientific research;
(5) Was incident to displaying the weapon in a public museum or exhibition;
(6) Was licensed by the state of Tennessee as a manufacturer, importer or dealer in weapons; provided, that the manufacture, import, purchase, possession, sale or disposition of weapons is authorized and incident to carrying on the business for which licensed and is for scientific or research purposes or sale or disposition to an organization designated in subdivision (b)(1);
(7) Involved acquisition or possession of a sawed-off shotgun, sawed-off rifle, machine gun or firearm silencer that is validly registered to the person under federal law in the National Firearms Registration and Transfer Records. A person who acquires or possesses a firearm registered as required by this subdivision (b)(7) shall retain proof of registration; or
[remainder of statute omitted]
TFA writes legislation to help process Class III transfers
One issue that citizens of many states face is the fact that the BATF forms which are necessary to complete a transfer of ownership of a Class III or NFA weapon (or to make certain Class III weapons) ostensibly requires that a local chief law enforcement officer sign the transfer forms. In Tennessee, this is normally the sheriff of the individual’s county of residence (in Davidson County it is however the Chief of Police).
However, some Tennessee law enforcement officers were unaware of the federal requirement and/or took the position that they were not required by law to sign these federal forms. In response to that problem, TFA helped write and pass a law which now requires Tennessee’s chief law enforcement officers to cooperate in the completion of the BATF forms:
39-17-1361. Execution of documents by sheriff or chief of police. —
The sheriff or chief of police of the city of residence of a person purchasing any firearm, defined by the National Firearms Act, 26 U.S.C. § 5845 et seq., shall execute within fifteen (15) business days of any request all documents required to be submitted by the purchaser if the purchaser is not prohibited from possessing firearms pursuant to § 39-17-1316.
[Acts 2003, ch. 275, § 1.]