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.