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Anti-gun stuff in Tennessee

In Tennessee, we have a nifty little law that was signed by Phil Bredesen that states:

The sheriff or chief of police of the city of residence of a person purchasing any firearm, defined by the National Firearms Act, 26 U.S.C. 5845 et seq., shall execute within fifteen (15) business days of any request all documents required to be submitted by the purchaser if the purchaser is not prohibited from possessing firearms pursuant to § 39-17-1316.

What that means in English is that if you, a law-abiding citizen, want to purchase an NFA weapon (machine gun, suppressor, etc.) then your local chief law enforcement officer is required by law to approve the transfer if you are not otherwise prohibited from possessing a firearm. But, in another case of those who enforce the law not knowing the law, the sheriff of a town refused to approve the transfer initiated by a dealer citing that the Assistant District Attorney thinks NFA devices are illegal:

One of my customers submitted his Form 4 to the Cheatham County Sheriff’s Department for the CLEO signature, and was turned down by the Sheriff. The Sheriff said he would double-check with the Assistant District Attorney this morning, to ensure he was correct.

The customer called me to tell me that the ADA advised the Sheriff to deny the signature, based on TCA 39-17-1302 (Prohibited Weapons).

Here is what TCA 39-17-1302 says:

“39-17-1302. Prohibited Weapons.
(a) A person commits an offense who intentionally or knowingly possesses, manufactures, transports, repairs, or sells:
(1) An explosive or an explosive weapon;
(2) A device principally designed, made or adapted for delivering or shooting an explosive weapon;
(3) A machine gun;
(4) A short-barrel rifle or shotgun;
(5) A firearm silencer;

Unfortunately, the DA did not continue reading the law or he would have realized that:

(b) It is a defense to prosecution under this section that the person’s conduct:

(7) Involved acquisition or possession of a sawed-off shotgun, sawed-off rifle, machine gun or firearm silencer which is validly registered to the person under federal law in the National Firearms Registration and Transfer Records. A person who acquires or possesses a firearm registered as required by this subdivision shall retain proof of registration.

If you’d like to contact the Sheriff’s office, you can find that info here.

I recommend the dealer contact the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and report a crime.

Update: Here’s contact info for the DA’s office.

14 Responses to “Anti-gun stuff in Tennessee”

  1. Howard Cornell Says:

    Is there a reason not to include the “ADA” address or not to include him in this complaint? The sheriff is ignorant, no doubt, but his attorney is giving him advice. My position on this is to sack them both.

  2. SayUncle Says:

    Once I find the info, I’ll post it.

    ETA: done.

  3. Wade Says:

    One more reason to set up a revocable living trust to avoid the CLEO signoff.

  4. SayUncle Says:

    Wade, in TN, you shouldn’t have to.

  5. Standard Mischief Says:

    I’m gonna go out on a limb and guess that there’s no penalty written in to the law for when the sheriff or chief of police breaks it.

    It always seems that way when there’s a law that applies to another branch of goverment.

  6. Brad Says:

    I’m not sure if things in Tenn are the same as they are in Michigan, but up here the Sheriff, or a Chief of Police are not required to be Certified Law Enforcement Officers. That does not excuse the Sheriff for being ignorant of his duties, but apparently in this case he requested the opinion of the County Prosecutor in something he was unsure of, and the Prosecutor gave him bad advice. I’d save my ire for the Prosecutor in this case, and appeal the decision to the judicial branch.

  7. Frank (the dealer in question) Says:

    I’m the dealer in question.

    Apparently, the ADA believes that mere possession of the suppressor is illegal, therefore, that’s enough of a prohibition to deny signing the Form 4. He also believes that anyone who wants to take their chances using the affirmative defense with a judge and jury is welcome to do so.

    Now, let’s take this a bit further, if you will.

    The Williamson County Sheriff’s Department (another jurisdiction, south of Nashville) equips their SRT (Special Response Team) with FN PS90 rifles and Gem-Tech suppressors. Since they possess silencers, they are violating the law, right? They should all arrest each other, so they can go to court. Then, they can use the affirmative defense proscribed by TCA 39-17-1302 (b) (1) that their actions were done as part of their official duties.

    The same goes for the thousands of soldiers stationed at Fort Campbell, just north of Nashville. All of them routinely possess machine guns as part of their duties. Guess what? TCA 39-17-1302 makes it illegal to do so. They should all be arrested and taken to court, where they can try their luck with the affirmative defense of TCA 39-17-1302 (b) (1).

    It just doesn’t pass the common sense test, does it? Of course, common sense isn’t all too common.

  8. Frank (the dealer in question) Says:

    Oh, and I’ve made calls to both the State AG’s office, seeking an opinion, and to the TN Bureau of Investigation, to report the criminal acts of a Sheriff and ADA.

    🙂 I can be a real ball-buster when I’m riled up.

  9. ThomasD Says:

    Going the AG or higher level LEO route may feel like a more satisfying route but the quicker route may be to find a judge and request a writ of mandamus be issued directing the Sheriff to, you know, enforce and abide by the laws as written.

  10. Frank (the dealer in question) Says:

    Thomas,

    Thanks for the advice. I’d never heard the term writ of mandamus before. I’ll be looking into it.

    SayUncle told me he has an NRA lobbyist calling him tomorrow. He’s going to give them my number, so I can have a nice little chat about our unfriendly ADA.

  11. Daryl Herbert Says:

    Clever lawyering from the gun-grabbers on this one.

    A literal reading of the first statute says that the sheriff must sign only if the applicant is already allowed to possess the weapon.

    A literal reading of the second statute says that the applicant is only legally allowed to possess the weapon once the forms are signed.

    So until your first NFA form is signed, you aren’t legally allowed to possess any NFA weapons, so the sheriff doesn’t have to sign your first NFA. (Once you are legally allowed to have at least one NFA weapon, the sheriff would be required to sign all further documentation for you to acquire more NFA weapons.)

    It’s cute, and it’s clever, but it’s not going to stand up in court. Any honest judge is going to reject that interpretation.

  12. straightarrow Says:

    Yeah, Daryl, but where can one find an honest judge. Way too many of them are like Jimm Larry Hendren.

  13. Darren LaSorte (NRA-ILA) Says:

    I was the state lobbyist for the National Rifle Association in Tennessee from 2000 to 2006 and worked to introduce and pass HB 1624 (created the TN CLEO law referenced) during the 2003 legislative session. This was the first law of its kind to pass anywhere in the country and it became the model for other states. The issue came to my attention from a Memphis attorney who was being unilaterally denied NFA transfers by his CLEO despite his perfectly clean record as a law-abiding Tennessean.

    The Sheriff’s Association is just about the only organized anti-gun lobby in the state (at least during my time lobbying) so I was sure it would oppose the bill. As we introduced it, we required the forms to be signed within five business days. Surprisingly, the only concern the Sheriff’s Association came to us with was that the time frame was too short. Acting as if it was the most painful thing I’ve ever done, I agreed to an amendment that took the time frame to 15 days (ultimately what was passed). We could have probably forced the issue and passed it with the five day provision but the goal was to stop unjustified, unilateral denial by CLEOs even if it meant a month. A brief wait is better than a permanent denial. Also, the Sheriff’s Association agreed to go away if we extended the introduced time period to the 15 days.

    I would suggest a couple of things for anyone who is having troubles with their CLEOs understanding the law. First, I would contact the Tennessee Sheriff’s Association at (615) 547-0277 and ask if they do any training for sheriffs regarding state statutes (they do). Tell them that they’ve evidently left this one out of the curriculum and should include it. Second, tell them about this specific problem and ask that they help to educate the uninformed sheriff. If they didn’t want to implement the law, they could have fought the legislation proposing it in 2003. As the history indicates, they did not. Finally, if none of this works, John Harris with the Tennessee Firearms Association would be interested in hearing about the problem I’m sure. He can be contacted at johnharris@tennesseefirearms.com. Of course, you can always contact us here at the NRA also.

    It was a good law then and it’s a better law now. Thanks and good luck.

    Darren LaSorte
    NRA-ILA

  14. straightarrow Says:

    Although not a Tennessean, my appreciation to Mr.Lasorte.