Background-check increase suggests spike in Tennessee firearms sales

The Tennessee background-check system for firearms has been backlogged because of a spike in requests from firearm dealers, suggesting an uptick in sales amid COVID-19 concerns.

Between March 12 and March 16, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation processed 14,657 background checks. In a comparable period from last month – Feb. 13 through Feb. 17  – TBI processed 7,901 checks.

Although the system only tracks background checks processed and not the total number of firearms sold, the increase suggests more firearms are being purchased.

Brian Hassler, the owner of Franklin Gun Shop in Franklin, told The Center Square his store has seen sales increase between five and 10 times higher than usual because of COVID-19 concerns. He said the sales include a significant number of new buyers.

“[The background-check system] experienced an uncharacteristic delay in processing transactions as a result of three things: a sharp increase in background check requests in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, limited staff access to TBI facilities as a result of an employee’s positive diagnosis and an approximately one-hour, unplanned outage in the technical connection needed to process the background checks [last Thursday],” TBI said in a news release.

Erich Pratt, the senior vice president at Gun Owners of America, told The Center Square the background-check delay is one of the main reasons that GOA opposes the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.

“Uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 scare has many new gun buyers, some of whom were previously supporters of gun control, running to gun stores to purchase firearms,” Pratt wrote in an email. “Ironically, many of them are disappointed to find out that purchasing a gun is not as easy as gun prohibitionists have claimed. Because of the increased demand, the FBI’s NICS background-check system is experiencing massive delays, and many gun buyers are finding that they can’t complete their purchase.”

Read more at The Center Square