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Firearms Background Checks in Tennessee, Not To Be Feared
Gun shops, as holders of Federal Firearms Licenses (FFLs), run 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 buy a gun. You shopped. You’ve found the right one for you and established the best price with the reseller you want to work with. You are ready to buy. Now comes the background 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 buy the gun you already think is yours, or will all your painstaking work to make your selection be wasted? It can be even more nerve-wracking if you’re trying to retrieve a firearm that you’ve temporarily pawned, perhaps a family heirloom. Most gun and pawn shops have seen just about every scenario. Although complications arise, it doesn’t have to be a fear-filled process.
A little knowledge helps allay most fears. First, let’s give a little overview of what the background check system is. Background checks for the purchase of firearms became the law of the land with the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, and on November 1, 1998, individual states were given the option of using the national system for this or d establish theirs. In my state, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation launched the TICS, or TBI Instant Checks System. The Tennessee State Legislature required that the system meet or exceed the requirements established by the Brady Act. In addition to checking against TBI records, the TICS unit performs a check against the National Instant Check System (NICS) on both the potential buyer and the firearm they have. intention to buy. This ensures that the person is legally able to purchase a firearm and that there is nothing negative about the history of the firearm itself, in the case of owned firearms previously.
The details of running the check are quite simple. The FFL (Federal Firearm Licensee or gun dealer) collects ten dollars, which are then all given to the State for control. The potential buyer enters their identification information on the TICS website, and the reseller confirms that it is you using your government-issued photo ID. Don’t forget to bring your license! Usually, in a fairly short time, the result will return. Sometimes, however, verification may take longer. Computers can crash or run slowly. It’s usually best to allow about 30 minutes before your gun shop closes to begin your background check so that you have time to finalize your purchase.
So all is well, but what about the results? All states produce an ‘Approved’ or ‘Rejected’ result. Approved means there was nothing in the check to delay the process. Refused means that something in the check came back that could prevent the purchase either on the firearm or on the buyer. It is also important to know that this is a rare case. On average, from 1999 to 2010, only about 2% of purchases were declined due to a background check. If the denial is about the buyer’s background, the good news is that the verification results can be appealed. It is important to remember that sometimes incorrect, incomplete, or outdated information may still reside in people’s records even after it is meant to be clarified. This could all be for a whole host of reasons. Of the denials that were appealed, well over half were overturned and the buyer was able to proceed with their purchase. Remember, if you think you were denied and shouldn’t have been, you can appeal, and your armory will have information on how to start your appeal process.
In addition to ‘Approved’ and ‘Denied’, a few states, including Tennessee, will also sometimes return a result of ‘Conditional Proceed’. This basically means there was something in the background check, which the system couldn’t resolve the decision on. The law states that the arms dealer may, “in his sole discretion”, return the firearm to the buyer. This opens up a whole litany of potential post-sale complications, including the need for the firearm to be retrieved by the BATFE (Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives).
I don’t particularly like the fact that Tennessee offers the “Conditional Proceed” outcome for a number of reasons. First, the customer pays for a response; either a yes or a no, no uncertainty. Second, it legally exposes the armory to possible civil lawsuits. We live in a country where anyone can sue anyone for anything, anytime, and does so frequently. An honest gun shop owner doesn’t need a thug’s family to sue him because he made the decision at his “sole discretion” to sell a gun to someone who used it to legally defend against said thug, for example. It’s happened to dealerships before. I believe a smart store owner will only hand a gun to a buyer who passes the background check with an “approved” result. Rather than selling a gun to someone at their sole discretion, a smart store owner will rely on the government to give them their discretion. Unfortunately, the Conditional Prosecution result can cause confusion and frustration when a dealer does not release a firearm based on this questionable result. Of the gunsmiths I know, I don’t know a single one that will come out on ‘Conditional Proceed’. Just as with a “Denied” result, a “Conditional Prosecution” can be canceled by the same appeal process.
The important thing to remember about background checks for gun purchases is that the process is not about judging your worth as a person. This is to ensure that firearms are only sold to people who are legally authorized to buy them. Sometimes the systems employed by the government are slow or incomplete in their information. If you believe you should be legally entitled to exercise your Second Amendment rights, but your background check indicates otherwise, there is recourse. Although it often takes several days, sometimes even weeks, for the result to change to reflect the correct information, all is not lost. Just follow the rules and be patient. So remember to bring your driver’s license, leave about 30 minutes before store closing for background checks, be patient and breathe easy. Your Armory Owner and/or Dealer is here to help.
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