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Tennesseans buying more guns. Is it a reaction to the coronavirus pandemic?

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TBI
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Mike Osborne) -- Reports from around the country suggest the coronavirus crisis has Americans buying more guns, and Tennessee is no exception.

State officials say that during a recent six day period, the number of gun purchase background check requests jumped 85 percent. The requests rose from 7,901 check requests during a six day period last month to 14,657 requests during the six day period ending March 12.

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation conducts the checks. In a press statement, the agency apologized for a delay in processing the requests. TBI blames the slowdown in part on the larger number of check requests and technical glitches, but also because a TBI headquarters employee tested positive for COVID-19.

You can read the full release copied below.

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TBI ADDRESSES CORONAVIRUS-RELATED DELAYS IN STATE FIREARMS BACKGROUND CHECKS

NASHVILLE – In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation would like to explain the reasons for delays customers and firearms dealers may have experienced this week while securing a firearms background check or appeal in the state, and the steps being taken to alleviate the situation.

The Tennessee Instant Check System (TICS) provides background checks at the point of firearm sale or transfer in the state of Tennessee. More general information about TICS can be found on TBI’s website, https://www.tn.gov/tbi/divisions/cjis-division/firearm-background-checks.html.

On Thursday, TICS 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.

The increase in background check requests in Tennessee aligns with national trends during the pandemic. TBI processed 14,657 transactions between Thursday, March 12th and Monday, March 16th. During the comparable five-day period, February 13th through February 17th, TBI processed 7,901 transactions.

Complicating the increase in demand for TBI background checks this week were the precautions taken immediately after the TBI learned, on Wednesday evening, an employee assigned to Headquarters in Nashville tested positive for COVID-19. The employee, who remains in good spirits and is recovering at home, self-reported the diagnosis to the agency. The Bureau’s senior management team took every reasonable and recommended measures 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 on Thursday.

The TBI acknowledges 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 impacting this week’s TICS response times were outside of the Bureau’s control. Still, the TBI continues to work to adjust employee work schedules in hopes of improving wait times in the days to come. The TBI appreciates the public’s patience during this difficult and unprecedented season.

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