In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation officials explained the reasons for delays customers and firearms dealers may have experienced recently while securing a firearms background check or appeal in the state, and the steps taken to alleviate the situation.
The Tennessee Instant Check System provides background checks at the point of firearm sale or transfer in the state. More general information about TICS can be found at tn.gov/tbi/divisions/cjis-division/firearm-background-checks.html.
TICS experienced an uncharacteristic delay in processing transactions March 19 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 about one-hour, unplanned outage in the technical connection needed to process the background checks.
The increase in background check requests in Tennessee aligned with national trends during the pandemic. TBI processed 14,657 transactions between March 12-16. During the comparable five-day period, Feb. 13-17, the TBI processed 7,901 transactions.
Complicating the increase in demand for TBI background checks recently were the precautions taken immediately after the TBI learned March 18 that an employee assigned to headquarters in Nashville tested positive for COVID-19. The employee, who remained in good spirits and continues to recover at home, self-reported the diagnosis to the agency.
The bureau’s senior management team took every reasonable and recommended measure to ensure the safety of employees and visitors to headquarters, which included additional cleaning measures and notifying employees who had contact with the affected employee. Additionally, employees assigned to headquarters, including the TICS employees who were not already working from home, were advised to do so March 19.
The TBI acknowledged customers and firearms dealers expect background checks and appeals to happen as promptly as they reasonably can, and the agency does, too. However, some circumstances that impacted TICS response times were outside of the bureau’s control.
The TBI continued to work to adjust employee work schedules in hopes to improve wait times in the future.