Inside Story: Sex Offenders Hold On to Handgun Permits - | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

NewsChannel 5 Investigates:

Inside Story: Sex Offenders Hold On to Handgun Permits

From Phil Williams:

Some lawmakers say it's none of your business who has a handgun permit.

But is it your business if sex offenders are carrying guns?

Last year, NewsChannel 5 Investigates obtained a database of everyone who had a gun permit --  and discovered the state was renewing gun permits for convicted felons.

That came as a surprise to state leaders.

"I did not realize that we were issuing permits to convicted felons," Safety Commissioner Dave Mitchell told me. "Until you brought it to our attention, I did not know that."

So with lawmakers talking about closing those records, I took another look at the data.

Unlike some news organizations, NewsChannel 5 has never considered putting a list of all those with gun permits on the Internet, along with their home addresses.

But here's another example of the good that comes from the list being open to public inspection:

Willie Frank Hereford is on the state's sex offender registry, convicted of aggravated statutory rape after he got his gun permit.

But the Department of Safety says the courts never notified them.

So after I discovered his criminal history, the Department of Safety sent him a letter last week, ordering him to immediately surrender his permit to carry a gun.

Matthew Mark Skaggs is also on the sex offender registry. The court says Skaggs entered a conditional guilty plea to two counts of indecent exposure.

That's a Class A misdemeanor.

But the department says, if they had known, his permit would have been suspended until he serves out his sentence.

That finally happened after I discovered he was a registered sex offender.

And I discovered two other sex offenders, Gabriel Sanchez and James Shetters, whose handgun permits had recently been revoked.

But it had taken a while, since the courts had not notified the state of their convictions.

So could these kind of mistakes happen again? Absolutely -- after all, court employees are human.

But if the records are closed, you may never know.

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