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Some With Mental Illnesses May Have Fallen Through Cracks, Purchased Firearms

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Posted at 6:13 PM, Aug 06, 2015
and last updated 2015-09-07 17:00:38-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Beginning in January of 2012, employees with the State of Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury have been collecting and analyzing data gathered by county clerks offices across the state.

Everything was under review, from the courts to the judges to the clerks and administrative offices. The audit found some court clerks were falling short when it came to one particular law.

"[It] requires county clerks to submit information to an FBI data base anytime someone is found to be mentally ill, essentially or committed to a mental institution," said John Dunn, spokesman for the Comptroller of Treasury.

That information has been used by multiple agencies.

"When you have people that should be in that data base that gun store owners check or that the Department of Homeland Security check to verify gun carry permits, when a person isn't in that database they could be carrying a weapon or purchasing a firearm," Dunn explained.

Unfortunately, that could very have happened as some court clerks failed to report those mentally ill cases within three days as the law requires.

“Some were not doing it at all," said Senator Ferrell Haile. "There were some difficulties in that process."

"It was difficult for us to determine how much time had elapsed in some cases because of the record keeping but we do know that in a few instances people were not being reported within those three days," said Dunn.

“I am concerned there are a lot of discrepancies in reporting not taking place,” Senator Haile said.

To quickly fix the problem the State has planned to devote the necessary resources to accurately track mental health reports but officials said the software that helps with those submissions needs an upgrade.

"The county clerks system automated computer software wasn't always set up to report this information to the FBI," said Dunn.

“What we want to do is correct where the failures are and make sure these reports are getting to the right source," Senator Haile said.

The State has applied for grant funds that would go towards the automated monitoring system to verify the data reported by county court clerks is in a timely matter.