The case of the man accused of shooting and killing four people in a Nashville Waffle House in 2018 is back in court Thursday.
The shooting illuminated a pitfall in the process of taking guns away from people who are deemed unsafe. Nashville officials feel they’re finally making progress to close that loophole.
The alleged shooter was not supposed to have access to guns. Law enforcement in Illinois had ordered him to give up his firearms due to prior offenses. They were given to his father, yet one of those guns — a semi-automatic rifle — was used in the shooting.
That transaction is called third party dispossession — if authorities order someone to give up their guns, they can turn them over to a friend or a relative.
Becky Bullard of the Metro Nashville Office of Family Safety says it’s dangerous, especially in Tennessee where there’s no process to follow up.
“We’re the only state in the country that is not holding that third party accountable, in any way,” Bullard says.
After the shooting, state legislation was introduced to change that, but it did not pass.
Bullard says ideally, Tennessee would not have an option that allowed someone to give their guns to a friend or a relative at all. But, she says there is not enough political will in the state to make that happen.
Instead, her office has been pushing for ways to hold the person taking control of the guns accountable through compliance hearings.
“That means bringing the third party into court to say this is the person that is receiving the weapons,” she says, “And making sure that third party understands the responsibility of taking those weapons.”
As it stands, there is no place on the dispossession form to identify who the third party even is.