Firearms inspections in Tennessee, you don’t have to fear

Firearms inspections in Tennessee, you don’t have to fear

Gun stores, such as Federal Firearms Licensees (FFLs), perform hundreds of thousands of background checks on their customers each year. This can be a somewhat emotionally charged process for the buyer. You have decided to purchase a firearm. You have shopped. You have found the one that suits you and worked out the best price with the dealer you want to work with. You are ready to buy. Now comes the previous check. If you are new to this process, some nervousness and uncertainty are not uncommon. What will be the result? Will you be able to purchase the firearm you already think is yours, or will all your careful work on your selection be for nothing? It can be even more nerve-wracking if you’re trying to get back a firearm you’ve temporarily pawned, perhaps a family heirloom. Most armories and pawn shops have seen just about every scenario. Although complications do occur, it doesn’t have to be a fear-filled process.

Knowledge does little to alleviate most fears. First, let’s do a little background on what a background check system is. Background checks for firearm purchases became the law of the land with the Brady Gun Violence Prevention Act, and on November 1, 1998, individual states were given the option of using the national system for this or creating their own. In my state, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation started TICS or the TBI Instant Check System. The Tennessee State Legislature mandates that the system must meet or exceed the requirements established by the Brady Act. In addition to the TBI record check, the TICS unit performs a NICS (National Instant Check System) check on both the prospective buyer and the firearm they intend to purchase. This ensures that the person is legally able to purchase a firearm and that there is nothing negative in the history of the firearm itself, in the case of previously owned firearms.

The details of performing the check are quite simple. The FFL (Federal Firearms Licensee or Dealer) collects ten dollars, all of which is later remitted to the state for the check. The potential buyer enters their identification information on the TICS website, and the merchant verifies that it is you with a government-issued photo ID. Don’t forget to bring your license! Usually, in a fairly short period of time, the result will return. However, sometimes the verification may take longer. Computers may crash and/or run slowly. It’s usually best to leave about 30 minutes before your gun store closes to start the background check so you have time to complete your purchase.

So all good, but what about the results? All statuses result in “Approved” or “Rejected”. Approved means there is nothing in the check to hold up the process. Denied means something on the check has bounced that could prevent the purchase of the firearm or the buyer. It is also important to know that this is a rare occurrence. On average, from 1999 to 2010, only about 2% of purchases were denied due to a background check. If the denial relates to the buyer’s background, the good news is that the background check can be appealed. It’s important to remember that sometimes incorrect, incomplete, or outdated information can still be in people’s records even after it’s supposed to be purged. All this can be due to a number of reasons. Of the denials that were appealed, more than half were overturned and the buyer was able to proceed with their purchase. Just remember that if you feel you were denied and shouldn’t have been, you can appeal and your gun store will have information on how to start the appeals process.

In addition to “Approved” and “Denied,” several states, including Tennessee, will also occasionally return a “Continuance on Condition” result. Essentially, this means that there was something in the background check that the system could not resolve the disposition of. The law states that a gun dealer can “at its discretion” release the firearm to the buyer. This opens up a whole host of potential post-sale complications, including the need for the firearm to be reclaimed by the BATFE (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives).

I don’t particularly like the fact that Tennessee offers the “Conditional Continuance” result for a number of reasons. First the customer pays for a response; either yes or no, not uncertainty. Second, it legally exposes the gun shop to a potential civil lawsuit. We live in a country where anyone can sue anyone for anything at any time and often does. An honest gun shop owner does not need the family of a thug to sue him because they made the decision in their “sole discretion” to sell a firearm to a person who used it to legally defend themselves against that thug for example. It has happened to dealers before. I believe that a smart store owner will only release a firearm to a buyer who passes the background check with an “Approved” score. Instead of selling a firearm to an individual at their discretion, a smart store owner will rely on the government to provide the discretion. Unfortunately, the Conditional Continue result can create confusion and frustration when a dealer does not release a firearm based on this questionable result. Among the gun shop dealers I know, I don’t know of any that will run on “Conditional Proceed”. Just like a Denied result, Conditional Proceedings can be overturned through the same appeals process.

The important thing to remember about background checks when purchasing a firearm is that the process is not about judging your worth as a person. They aim to ensure that firearms are only sold to people who are legally entitled to buy them. Sometimes the systems used by the government are slow or incomplete in their information. If you believe that by law you should be allowed to exercise your Second Amendment rights, but your background check shows otherwise, there is a remedy. Although it often takes several days or sometimes even several weeks for the result to change to reflect the correct information, all is not lost. Just follow the rules and be patient. So, don’t forget to get your driver’s license, leave about 30 minutes before the store closes for inspection, be patient and breathe easy. Your gun shop owner and/or dealer is there to help.

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