Tennessee Will Now Allow Felons To Own Guns...Of A Sort

The question of restoring rights to felons is a thorny issue. I’m often amazed at how those who want to keep felons disarmed, for example, are quite ready to give them back voting rights as if nothing has ever happened. Nevermind that voting has the potential cause far more bloodshed than a single person with a gun ever could.


Meanwhile, few are talking about arming felons at all.

However, it seems that Tennessee is. Sort of, anyway. They’re set to allow felons to own antique firearms.

Convicted felons can now possess guns in the Volunteer State.

The catch? The guns have to be so old they don’t technically count as firearms under state law. That also means they’d probably be pretty useless in terms of self-defense.

Earlier this year, the state legislature unanimously passed legislation that amended Tennessee’s definition as to what constitutes a firearm in order to make the state’s definition the same as the federal government’s. Notably, the federal government doesn’t consider “antique weapons”—by which the government means guns manufactured prior to 1899—to be firearms. That means, by extension, Tennessee now doesn’t either.

State law previously denied felons—including individuals convicted of nonviolent drug offenses—the right to own any firearms, including those classified as antique. However, Tennessee’s reaffirmation of a felon’s right to own an outdated, ineffective weapon does little to address the fact that nonviolent drug offenders are still being denied their Constitutional right to self-defense in the state.


Honestly, I have no issue with this and I don’t think anyone else should either.

As noted, these are antique firearms that aren’t exactly fit for self-defense, by and large. They’re collector’s pieces that yes, might be functional, but are still less than ideal for defending yourself from a threat and even less ideal for committing a crime.

Oh, sure, they can hurt someone. There’s no question about that. Battlefields from prior to the 20th Century were far too littered with dead to believe these guns can’t hurt anyone.

But we don’t keep felons from owning other things that could hurt someone. There’s no prohibition on owning knives, for example. In fact, you can kill a lot more people quickly with a kitchen knife than you can with a single-shot, muzzleloading pistol. I guess you can flip it around and use the pistol as a club after the first shot and hurt more, but at that point, you might as well be wielding a rock.

Plus, frankly, if these folks are that much of a danger, why are they still out on the streets anyway?

Regardless, changing the classification on antique guns so felons can own them isn’t likely to make a whole lot of difference for much of anyone. Those felons who do represent a danger to the public are likely already armed and armed with modern firearms rather than antiques best left to collectors’ cases. After all, we know that criminals know how to get their hands on guns outside of the law as it is.


They still will. This will just allow some who aren’t a threat to begin collecting some really cool guns if they have the financial means to do so.


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