- Associated Press - Thursday, April 6, 2017

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - The Tennessee Senate passed a bill Thursday that would eliminate background check requirements when gun dealers occasionally sell from their personal firearm collections.

Senators voted 24-3 on the legislation by Sen. Mae Beavers, R-Mount Juliet, leaving the decision to sign or veto the bill up to Republican Gov. Bill Haslam. The House passed the bill Monday.

The proposal drew criticisms from Democrats, who questioned whether the change would let more dangerous people sidestep background checks before buying guns.

Beavers said private citizens can currently transfer guns from their own collections without background checks. She said the gun must be in a dealer’s private collection for a year so there can’t be an instantaneous transfer out of the dealer’s business inventory.

“It allows them to do what every other citizen in the state of Tennessee can already do,” Beavers said.

Republican Sen. Mike Bell of Riceville, who supports the bill, noted that it’s a crime to sell to someone you know has failed a background check.

Senate Minority Leader Lee Harris, D-Memphis, wondered whether the bill would let dealers help questionable buyers circumvent background checks. He said a dealer could potentially drop hints that if a buyer expects to fail a background check, that person should take a look at the dealer’s private collection.

“My particular opinion on the matter is that violent ex-felons who cannot pass a background check should not have easy access to a gun,” Harris said. “There’s room for disagreement, but I believe that’s what this bill does in any number of ways.”

The vote came a day after a House panel in the Republican-controlled General Assembly rejected legislation to require background checks for private gun sales.

The bill was sponsored by House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Stewart of Nashville, who said he had bought an AK-47-style rifle without a background check the night before.

The same House panel advanced a proposal Wednesday to eliminate jail time for carrying a gun in public without a state-issued permit.

Under the measure sponsored by Republican Rep. Jeremy Faison of Cosby, a violation would still be a misdemeanor but would only be punishable by a fine of $100 on the first offense and $200 for the second.

Bills that would have largely eliminated the state requirement to have a handgun permit have failed this year.

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