A persistent group of Tennesseans with violent pasts carry gun permits through loopholes, administrative mistakes, and the realities of a court system where charges based on violent incidents can be reduced or eliminated in plea bargains, reports The Tennessean. The state prison system has 500 people in its records of felons whose names appear to match those of gun permit holders. State law prohibits felons – people convicted of what are considered the state’s most serious crimes – from holding a gun permit and legally carrying a handgun.
When the Tennessean showed these matches to the agency that approves handgun permit applications, the state Department of Safety, it found that most of them have a legal reason to hold their permit. “Tennessee’s laws are among the weakest in the country to keep guns away from dangerous people,” said Daniel Vice of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. In some states, authorities have discretion to prevent dangerous or unstable people from getting guns, even if they have not committed a disqualifying crime. Tennessee tried to give some discretion to permitting officials in the mid-1990s when local sheriffs were charged with determining who got a permit. Politics and inconsistencies from district to district led to some who deserved to get a permit being denied, says John Harris of the Tennessee Firearms Association.