Felons with Guns: Permit Loopholes in Tennessee

On May 20, 2008, in News 2008, by Mark Norris

Reported by: Jeni DiPrizio, myeyewitnessnews.com
Contributor: Adrienne Phillips
May 20, 2008

MEMPHIS, TN – Eyewitness News Everywhere uncovers dozens of convicted felons who may be armed and dangerous, because of problems with background checks. Felons are not allowed to carry guns, but that has not stopped the State of Tennessee from issuing permits to crooks.

At Rangemasters in East Memphis, students learn how to use guns properly.

“You just want to be one of those citizens that is all legal and I just feel empowered. I can take care of myself,” said one student.

The State of Tennessee requires a background check and firearms training before a permit can be issued, but in some cases, background checks were not being conducted on time, or at all.

“In some instances, the state was allegedly issuing permits before the county sheriffs even got back to the state with the background check,” said State Senator Mark Norris of Collierville.

Eyewitness News Everywhere checked a database of registered gun permits and found hundreds of potential matches of people who have committed serious felonies. According to court records, Clifton Norfleet was convicted on felony theft charges 15 years ago, but in 2004, he obtained a permit to carry a gun. His permit is still valid, even though he is now on probation connected to another felony.

According to Tennessee law, when a person is charged with a felony crime, the judge is supposed to notify the state. Once the state is notified, the accused criminal’s gun permit is supposed to be suspended.

Eyewitness News Everywhere found, in Shelby County, that is not always the case. For example, Alvin Montgomery pleaded guilty to second degree murder in December 2007, but he still has a valid gun permit. Also in 2007, Tracy and Gerry Tallant were charged with first degree murder, but no one has called the state to suspend their gun licenses.

In January 2007, Wayne Logan was charged with child rape, but still has a valid permit; and two years after Ogbeiwi Osayamien was indicted for first degree murder, no one has notified the state.

Another part of the problem: In 2006, the State stopped conducting background checks on permit renewals, meaning people who have gotten in trouble with the law since they got their gun permit, were not stopped from renewing them.

Convicted felons are not allowed to possess weapons or ammunition.

To stop felons from slipping through the system, the state has changed how it conducts background checks. State Senator Norris helped pass a law that will provide reimbursement to counties for some of the cost of background checks. He says making sure background checks are done properly should keep handguns out of the hands of felons that are not supposed to have them.

There are about 190,000 valid gun permits in Tennessee – Shelby County leads the state with around 10,000 issued. In 2007, 262 permits in the state were revoked.

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