Guns illegal for domestic abusers in Tennessee, but there’s no way to check

Photo: WKRN

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – In Tennessee, those convicted of domestic violence are required to give up any guns they have, but that doesn’t always happen.

Convicted domestic abusers are on the honor system.

They can tell a judge they don’t have a gun when they do or say they gave their gun away when they didn’t.

Why is this a big deal? Fifty-four percent of mass shootings in America are related to domestic violence, and many mass shooters have a history of domestic abuse.

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“At this point, we’re relying on an offender’s word too much,” said Becky Owen Bullard, Lethality Assessment Program Manager for Metro’s Office of Family Safety. “Metro’s government is working on a number of different ways that we can correct that.”

Right now in Tennessee, if a person is convicted of domestic violence or if an order of protection is filed against them, they must fill out a “dispossession form.” On the form, they must answer if they own any firearms.

If they do, they must dispossess the firearms, which means they must sell them or give them away.

But there’s no oversight to make sure the offender is telling the truth.

“These individuals may not always admit that information and we’re also asking that they dispossess that to a third party when we don’t know who that third party could be,” said Bullard. “We’re also not able to check to see if they have a permit so they could lie and say they don’t have a firearm when they in fact, do.”

Even the dispossession form is new.

The Metro Office of Public Safety worked with AWAKE Tennessee, a women and children’s rights advocacy group, to pass legislation earlier this year requiring an offender fill out a dispossession form.

In a statement, AWAKE told News 2, “Tennessee has a long way to go in protecting victims of domestic violence. Creating a procedure that requires offenders to fill out a form regarding weapons and signing it is a huge step in the right direction.”

Both AWAKE and Metro believe there is much more work to do.

The city has created a Domestic Violence and Firearms Committee that is working on solutions to fill the gaps in the criminal justice system when it comes to domestic abusers and guns. Some of those solutions may require money, personnel or even legislation but it hopes to have made some progress next year.