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Tennessee Background Check Data

In Tennessee, all prospective gun buyers, or those redeeming a firearm from pawn, from a licensed firearm dealer are required to undergo a background check via the Tennessee Instant Check System (TICS) which is administered by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI). The TBI publishes statistics on the number of background checks performed for the year.  The statistics include monthly and annual totals for the number of checks/transactions processed, the number of firearms processed (some purchasers may purchase more than one gun as a single transaction), the number of transactions that are denied, the number of stolen guns identified and the number of wanted people identified through the background checks process.


Anyone who feels that their denial was in error may appeal the decision.  Some denials may be overturned.  Possible reasons for being denied include:

  • Convicted of a felony

  • Convicted in any court of a crime which is punishable by a term of more than one year or a misdemeanor punishable by more than two years

  • Indicted for a crime punishable by more than one year

  • Under and indictment, but not convicted of a crime carrying a possible year-long prison sentence

  • A fugitive from justice

  • Convicted of a domestic violence offense

  • Subject to a restraining order for threatening a family member

  • Involuntarily committed to a mental institution

  • A user of illegal drugs or substances

  • Renounced citizenship

  • Dishonorably discharged from the military


In 2018, the TBI Background Check Statistical Report included data on the number of background checks processed as a "Conditional Proceed.”  This data was not included in previous years’ reports.

What is a Conditional Proceed?
If during the background check process, the TBI locates a record with outstanding disqualifying charges or charges that are undeterminable as disqualifying, the transaction. Upon an appeal of the denial, TBI will attempt to find disposition information on the charges in order to make a determination of eligibility to purchase a firearm.  However, if they are unable to obtain the information within the mandatory 15-day limit, the transaction will be marked as a Conditional Proceed which means that the firearm dealer may lawfully, at his/her discretion, complete the transfer.


The effectiveness of the background check system is largely based on the the accuracy and timeliness of the data uploaded to it. According to a recent report published by the TBI, due to limited resources, dated technology and the lack of a unified court system, the agency faces a backlog of over 761,000 cases not linked to criminal histories. This means that some prospective gun owners could potentially have disqualifying charges, but those cases might not show up in the background check system.

Below is a table of Tennessee Background Check data from 2011 through 2022. The data is accurate as of the time the report was published by the TBI. Some denials may have since been successfully appealed.

These numbers pertain only to gun sales conducted through FFLs. The number of private sales that take place without background checks is unknown. Also unknown: the number of individuals who are denied a gun because they were unable to pass a background check who then go on to purchase a gun from a private seller.

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