Tennessee Statutes and Regulations.
While most of the legal framework concerning the
purchase and sale of firearms is established by the federal standards and
threshold, there are still a number of Tennessee statutes which supplement
the federal scheme concerning the purchase and sale of firearms. The bulk
of these state statutes address the fact that Tennessee’s Legislature
decided in early 1998 to opt out of the National Instant Check System (“NICS”),
which is a portion of the Brady law that went into effect in November
Much of the decision by the Tennessee Legislature to opt out of the Federal NICS system took place very early in 1998 during informal meetings with the House Judiciary Committee. At that time, the Federal government was still conducting hearings on the implementation of the NICS program. In those hearing it was anticipated that the FBI would be charging approximately $27 for each NICS check. Rather than allow Tennessee to be included in the NICS system, the Tennessee Legislature opted out of the Federal program. It set the TICS fee at $10 per transaction which was the amount charged by Davidson County Police Department for firearms purchase background checks at the time. Ultimately, the Federal government decided that the NICS checks would be done at no charge to the firearms purchasers and, since that time, efforts have been made in the Tennessee Legislature to either remove the $10 fee in Tennessee or to opt into the federal program (however, a fiscal impact of approximately $2,000,000 to $4,000,000 per year in potentially lost revenue is very hard for a money hungry government to forego).
During the first reporting year (November 1998 to
December 1999), the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation reported that it
processed 303,509 TICS requests covering 330,188 firearms. As of February
2005, the total TICS checks processed since November 1998 is 1,382,285
covering 1,507,812 firearms. These background checks cover just the retail
purchases of firearms from licensed dealers. “Casual” sales, i.e., sales
between individuals, and sales to law enforcement and government agencies
are not included in the TICS statistics.
One problem that quickly surfaced under the TICS program
was the position taken by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation that a
proposed purchase would be automatically denied if a computerized criminal
history background check revealed that the individual had been arrested on
any charge which might have been a felony and for which the computerized
records did not contain sufficient information concerning the final
disposition of the criminal charge (a situation that is also referred to
as a “open disposition”). See, Rules of the TBI, 1395-1-3-.05.(8-10). The
circumstance of an open disposition was a common problem since the
arresting agencies tended to be better at reporting arrests than the
courts were at reporting final dispositions so that the FBI databases
could be kept current.