TFA: TWRA Bow Hunting Policy for Handgun Permit Holders Needs Clarification

by TN Press Release Center on September 21, 2012

Press release from the Tennessee Firearms Association; September 20, 2012: 

TWRA issues “clarification” or policy change on permit holders during bow season

TFA has received and confirmed reports that TWRA was advising its officers that a bow hunter (or muzzleloader hunter) who does not have a handgun permit could be charged with criminal hunting violations if they were hunting with another hunter who did have a handgun permit and a handgun while hunting. This is the essential body of an email from a TWRA official that was provided to TFA (emphasis added):

“It is illegal for any person, without a carry permit, to carry a firearm or to be accompanied by a person who is in possession of a firearm while archery or muzzleloader hunting. The carry permit supersedes 70-4-123 so that a person with a valid carry permit can be in possession of a firearm while archery hunting.

The answer to the question would be that you cannot be with your friends while hunting if they have a firearm in their possession.”

TFA looked into this issue and confirmed that this was the TWRA’s policy on this matter. TFA contacted Senator Mike Faulk, known to be an avid hunter himself, for further confirmation. Senator Faulk did look into this matter and provided to TFA a copy of a memorandum issued by TWRA on September 17, 2012 reversing this policy. The TWRA memorandum now states:

For purposes of enforcing T.C.A. 70-1-123, a person who is accompanied by someone authorized to carry a handgun pursuant to T.C.A. 39-17-1351 shall not be considered to be in violation of this statute.

While this is a victory for hunters in Tennessee, the policy requires further clarification. Note that the policy is expressly limited to armed companions who are carrying firearms pursuant to the civilian handgun permit statute 39-17-1351. There may be many loopholes:

  • What if the person is carrying based on reciprocity? Since Tennessee’s reciprocity statute is under 39-17-1351(r), that should be ok.
  • What if the person is legally carrying other than pursuant to this specific statute? TWRA’s policy is not clear. The policy, as written, might not apply if the armed companion is any of those several groups of individuals who in the wisdom of the Tennessee or Federal governments are allowed to carry firearms without a civilian handgun carry permit. Thus, if your companion is carrying pursuant to the federal statutes, as current or retired officers, if they are a current federal officer, by a current officer from “out of state” (39-17-1308(a)(10), if they are carrying as law enforcement in an “off duty” capacity (see 39-17-1315 or 39-17-1350), if they are a local, state or federal judge or magistrate (39-17-1308(a)(7)), etc.

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