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The backlash following the United States Supreme Court Bruen decision resulted in a flurry of laws adding “sensitive areas” to many existing restrictions. Depending on the state, now even more laws make it a crime for law abiding armed citizens to carry their handguns when they go to church, go to the doctor, enter a library, stadium, park or public square, attend a rally, use mass transit and more.

This drives individual armed citizens to decide whether to comply and go unarmed or decide to accept the punishment if they are found in possession of a handgun where it is illegal. That decision must weigh whether violation is a felony or a misdemeanor, if conviction of illegal carry can result in loss of gun rights and for how long, as well as the severity of fines and jail sentences.

With that in mind, we asked our affiliated attorneys –

In the state(s) where you practice law, where is it illegal to carry a handgun and what is the penalty for carrying a gun illegally?

Do penalties increase if the charges also include a crime of violence?

Donald O. Chesworth
Tully Rinckey PLLC
400 Linden Oaks Suite 110, Rochester, NY 14625

I am in New York and the law is unclear at this point because there are at least two cases in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals challenging the New York statute of July of 2022 which was a reaction to the Supreme Court Bruen case. The current New York law establishes sensitive areas which could be much of the state and public lands and highways. It also makes it illegal to enter a business with a concealed weapon unless there is a sign welcoming such.

Possession of an unlicensed handgun is an E Felony which can result in 1 to 4 years in prison.

If a crime is involved or intended with the illegal possession it can be a C Felony with a minimum sentence of 3.5 years and up to 15 years.

We are all interested in the anticipated decisions from the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. I believe that any conviction under the weapons possession sections would be a basis for the denial of a pistol permit and any felony conviction would make it illegal for the convicted person to possess any firearm.

John Chapman
Kelly & Chapman
P.O. Box 168, Portland, ME 04101
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Generally, in Maine, the “no carry zones” include jails and prisons, courthouses, public schools, secure areas of air terminals, Amtrak, the “Capitol Area” in Augusta, bars if posted, the site of labor disputes, federal facilities, and places licensed for slot machines.

There is no particular linkage with crimes against the person.

John I. Harris III
Schulman, LeRoy & Bennett PC
3310 West End Avenue, Suite 460, Nashville, TN 37203
615-244-6670 Ext. 111

Tennessee has a statute that makes it a crime to carry any firearm at any time at any place in the state “with the intent to go armed.” Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-1307(a). Under Tennessee’s statutory scheme, the law provides various “affirmative defenses” or statutory exceptions to that criminal charge. See, e.g., Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-1308. These statutory defenses include situations such as having a handgun permit, that the individual was lawfully hunting, that the possession was in the person’s residence, at the person’s place of business or at the person’s property. There is no circumstance under which it is not a crime for an individual to carry a firearm with the “intent to go armed” in Tennessee.

The practical problem with Tennessee’s statutory scheme is that any time an officer sees an individual carrying a firearm in Tennessee, the officer has “probable cause” to believe that a crime is being committed. That means that the officer has the authority to stop, detain, question, arrest, and/or prosecute the individual. That is because in Tennessee, the burden is on the individual to prove that one of the affirmative defenses or statutory exceptions applies. However, because of the structure of the law the only time that anyone is required to evaluate the affirmative defenses is during a jury or bench trial (if the jury is waived). The arresting officer is not required to consider the affirmative defenses or statutory exceptions. The district attorney is not required to consider the affirmative defenses or statutory exceptions. 

Many people inaccurately believe that Tennessee has constitutional carry. Part of that confusion comes from the fact that Governor Bill Lee has asserted that he asked for and the Legislature passed “constitutional carry” in Tennessee in 2021. That is not true. See, https://tennesseefirearms.com/2022/10/tennessee-does-not-have-real-constitutional-carry-the-talking-points/ Also, it is important to know that Governor Bill Lee, who identifies as a Republican, is presently pushing for a special legislative session in Tennessee to enact a Red Flag law. 

If you are in Tennessee or you plan to travel to Tennessee, it is important to know that any carrying of any firearm in Tennessee “with the intent to go armed” is a crime. Certainly, you might have a valid defense but that does not mean you cannot be stopped, detained, questioned and even charged by law enforcement if they observe you exercising your Second Amendment rights.

John R. Monroe
John Monroe Law, PC
156 Robert Jones Road, Dawsonville, GA 30534

In my state (Georgia), it is illegal to carry a gun in jails, prisons, courthouses, churches, polling places (while elections are occurring), state-owned mental health institutions, schools, and nuclear power plants. Depending on the circumstances, it can be illegal to carry in a government building. The penalty is a $1,000 fine and 12 months in jail.

If a crime of violence occurs, there is a possibility of possession of a firearm during the commission of certain crimes, but it depends on what the underlying crime is. A violation is punishable by five years in prison.

Jerold E. Levine
5 Sunrise Plaza Ste. 102, Valley Stream, NY 11580-6130

In the state(s) where you practice law, where is it illegal to carry a handgun and what is the penalty for carrying a gun illegally?

It is illegal everywhere in New York without a New York carry pistol license, and New York has no license reciprocity. Violation is a very serious felony, with the sentence upon conviction being 5-15 years mandatory imprisonment.

Additionally, New York now has many “sensitive” locations where handgun possession is illegal even with a New York license. This nonsense is New York’s (as well as other States’) response to the Supreme Court decision in Bruen. So, there are many places that licensees have to avoid.

Do penalties increase if the charges also include a crime of violence?

Yes, they fall under the category of violent felony offenses, and the increased sentences are various. Also, sometimes these offenses are classed as violent, even though the defendant did not actually do anything violent.


Thank you, affiliated attorneys, for sharing your experience and knowledge. Members, please return next month when we have a new question for our affiliated attorneys.

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