A poll sponsored by an organization promoting expanded background checks for gun purchases found that 67 percent of Tennessee voters surveyed support the idea while 26 percent oppose it.
The survey of 500 Tennessee registered voters, taken May 22-23, was conducted by Public Policy Polling on behalf of Americans United for Change. Similar results were found in surveys of Arkansas and Georgia voters, a news release says, indicating “even in dark red states there’s strong, bipartisan support for expanded background checks.”
A Vanderbilt University poll, conducted earlier in the month, asked Tennessee voters if they supported criminal background checks for gun purchasers and 90 percent said they do.
— Note: The PPP poll news release is below.
Gov. Bill Haslam said Tuesday he sees no need for any more gun legislation at the state level, but in general likes the idea advanced at the federal level of expanded background checks for firearm purchases.
“I think we’ve addressed the gun laws we need to (address) in Tennessee right now,” Haslam said in answering a question posed from the audience at the American Legion Auxiliary Volunteer Girls State.
He cited as a capstone of state gun laws legislation signed into law earlier this year that allows handgun permit holders to keep their weapons in a locked vehicle almost anywhere, including the parking lot of employers who prohibit guns on their property.
But at the federal level, the governor said he was open to at least one change.
“I think there has to be a better way to do background checks. … It makes sense and I think we can do it without infringing on people’s Second Amendment rights,” he said.
Asked to elaborate later by reporters, Haslam said sees no need for either expansion or restriction of gun rights in Tennessee.
“If it was my preference, there wouldn’t be any gun legislation brought up in the next (legislative) session,” he said. “Now, obviously, we’ve got 132 people (state legislators) who get to decide what they do. But for me, I think the status quo would be OK.”
He declined to give any specifics on background checks, including whether he would support ending what gun control advocates characterize as a the “gun show loophole” in current federal law. Though background checks are required for purchases at retail gun stores, they are not mandatory for sales at gun show events.
“I don’t have anything in mind,” he said. “I don’t know enough to be specific about that. … I think there are people into that who are further down that road than I am.”
And this from Andy Sher’s report on the governor’s comments: Tennessee Firearms Association Executive Director John Harris on Tuesday called the new law (“guns in parking lots”) an “abomination” that needs to put right to protect gun owners as they commute to and from work.
Meanwhile, Harris said the group has more proposals on its agenda.
“Our to-do list has probably got 30 or so areas on it at this point,” he said. “We’ve always got a list of what do we want to change.”
One issue the group is interested in is what it calls “constitutional carry” law.
It says that as a citizen, Tennesseans don’t need to obtain a state-issued handgun-carry permit. Five states have such statutes while Kentucky has a modified version, Harris said.
Harris noted that during his 2010 campaign for governor, “Haslam said he didn’t mind and would sign” such legislation into law. Then, Harris said, Haslam “immediately flip flopped on that and he’s never flipped back into it.”
Tennessee has the highest rate of gun purchase denials in the nation, according to a February report by the U.S. Department of Justice that is the focus of a Tennessean story. In 2010, Tennessee rejected about 4.3 percent of gun buyers’ purchases based on state criminal background checks, according to the report — more than twice the national average of about 1.5 percent.
A majority of those who appeal their cases win, allowing them to eventually get a gun. Just like Armentrout did.
It’s a system that annoys both buyers and sellers and could become an even bigger headache if new federal efforts to require background checks for all gun sales are successful.
“I can’t even imagine how they’re even going to keep up with the processing,” Armentrout said. “They can barely keep up now.”
The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, which conducts a $10 background check on all gun purchases from gun stores, acknowledges it has a high denial rate.
Kristin Helm, spokeswoman for the agency, said that its criminal background system, called the TBI Instant Check System, or TICS, is great for recording arrests but doesn’t always get updated as to the outcome of those cases.
“Missing dispositions has been an issue with criminal records; however, it has vastly improved over the last 10 years,” Helm said. “When an appeal is filed on a denied transaction, TICS staff diligently tracks down each record from clerks’ offices across the state to locate any missing information, which also updates the criminal history system.”
Only about 4 percent of people who try to buy a gun in Tennessee are snagged by background checks, reports The Commercial Appeal – while giving an example of a woman who tried to buy a pistol and wound up being arrested on four outstanding warrants. Of those applicants who fail the initial background check, 30 percent clear up the problems during an appeal. Easy access to guns is being addressed at the state and national level now in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook Elementary school shooting in Newtown, Conn., in which 20 children and six adults were killed. In that case, Adam Lanza stole his mother’s .223-caliber Bushmaster rifle and killed her before the rampage.
Last year, 18,023 would-be gun owners failed a background check in Tennessee. Of those who failed, 9,937 appealed the decision and less than half — or 4,581 — still failed a second check.
TICS state records show 449,479 Tennesseans were ultimately approved to buy 509,983 firearms from licensed dealers last year. The sales jumped drastically in December, when 80,169 buyers were approved to buy 88,289 firearms. The numbers don’t reflect the untold thousands of private sales.
WASHINGTON (AP) — People who lived in the two states that saw the most deadly U.S. mass shootings in 2012 were less enthusiastic about buying new guns at the end of the year than those in most other states, according to an Associated Press analysis of new FBI data.
The latest government figures also reflect huge increases across the U.S. in the number of background checks for gun sales and permits to carry guns at the end of the year. After President Barack Obama’s re-election in November, the school shooting in Connecticut last month and Obama’s promise to support new laws aimed at curbing gun violence, the number of background checks spiked, especially in the South and West. In Georgia, the FBI processed 37,586 requests during October and 78,998 requests in December; Alabama went from 32,850 to 80,576 during the same period.
Nationally, there were nearly twice as many more background checks for firearms between November and December than during the same time period one year ago.
Background checks typically spike during the holiday shopping season, and some of the increases in the most recent FBI numbers can be attributed to that. But the number of background checks also tends to increase after mass shootings, when gun enthusiasts fear restrictive measures are imminent.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — It was likely a record weekend for gun sales in Tennessee.
Tennessee Bureau of Investigation spokeswoman Kristin Helm said in an email that the agency performed 9,772 background checks over Friday, Saturday and Sunday. That’s 500 more than the second biggest weekend on record — Black Friday and the two days that followed in November.
Background checks do not indicate how many guns were actually sold because buyers can purchase more than one.
The sales spike came after President Barack Obama called for stricter gun control following the horrific elementary school shooting in Connecticut on Friday.
John Harris, executive director of the gun rights advocacy group the Tennessee Firearms Association, said many people he knows are purchasing guns and ammunition.
“The fear is that the government is going to disregard the Constitution and try to ban weapons we’ve got a right to own under the Constitution,” Harris said. “…The thinking is that since we don’t know what’s going to happen, we need to go out and stock up.”
At the Goodlettsville Gun Shop, outside of Nashville, sales continued to be brisk on Wednesday.
Owner Phillip Arrington said in a phone interview that the store was packed and he had five check-out lines going.
“I’m so busy I don’t have time to talk,” he said.
A “task force” appointed by Gov. Bill Haslam is supposed to draft final recommendations this month on how a Tennessee school-voucher program should operate, reports Richard Locker. The “Governor’s Task Force on Opportunity Scholarships” held its fourth meeting Wednesday and although differences among its members continue, its chairman, state Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman, made it clear that the panel’s charge from the governor is not to debate whether to have a voucher program but rather how a program should operate — its legal parameters — if lawmakers create one.
Key issues include when to launch a program; whether to put family-income limits on participation; whether to limit participation to students from low-performing public schools; the size of the “scholarships” — the amount of public money diverted to private schools per student; whether to start a program on a limited, experimental “pilot” basis in a few districts; whether to allow for-profit private schools to participate; and what kind of accountability measures should be put in place, if any, for the private schools accepting the public money.
In addition to limiting eligibility to low-income students, the bill senators approved in 2011 would have limited the program initially to Tennessee’s four largest counties, Shelby, Davidson, Knox and Hamilton, on a trial basis. School districts in those counties have formed a Coalition of Large School Systems, which has opposed vouchers because they divert public funding away from their districts and to private schools.
Advocates of vouchers say they promote school choice by allowing students from low- and moderate-income families to attend private schools that will accept them.
Despite the governor’s assignment for the task force, he said he’s still not sure if he will fully support a voucher plan. “A lot of it depends on what it looks like,” he said.
A union has suspended its protests against subcontractors paying substandard wages and benefits — using signs that say “Shame On” the person or entity targeted in the protest — after two sign-carrying pickets were found to have criminal backgrounds, reports the News Sentinel. Picketers have held up the signs in front of Cherokee Health, Denark Construction and the Andrew Johnson Building in Knoxville, as well as at Blount Memorial Hospital and Maryville College.
But the banners are down in the Knoxville’ area as the Mid-South Carpenters Regional Council awaits criminal background checks on all individuals it hires to hold the signs.
The union took down the banners after two Knoxville men holding a “Shame on…” banner in front of First Baptist Church of Dandridge were arrested on May 18 for violating the state sex offender registry law.
Ricky Dean Moore, 49, was released in lieu of $25,000 bond, while Michael David Sadler, 51, was held on $25,000 bond, according to a Jefferson County General Sessions Court staffer. They each face a 9 a.m. June 13 hearing in General Sessions Court.
James L. Kerley, executive secretary/treasurer with the Nashville-based union that has 5,000-plus members, said the union was unaware of the men’s criminal backgrounds.
“As far as we know, we are doing everything we can do to make sure that doesn’t happen again,” he said.
— Note: Frank Cagle has an opinion on such doings.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A proposal that would exempt handgun carry permit holders from background checks when they purchase a firearm has been delayed in the Senate.
The measure sponsored by Republican Sen. Steve Southerland of Morristown was scheduled for a Senate floor vote on Wednesday. But Southerland said he delayed the vote after the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation asked to discuss the bill.
He said he doesn’t know the reason for the request.
The companion bill is awaiting a vote in the House Judiciary Subcommittee.
Read SB0306 at http://capitol.tn.gov.