Why have I been so silent lately? It happens a lot, I get burned out on writing, run out of things to say, or just plain get too busy to write. This time, though, I was bitter, and for what I consider to be a good reason, that I was recently put right through the friggin’ wringer by the state’s bureaucratic system, for no good reason, and without a genuine apology.
I moved to NH about 2 years ago - I had too much stress at work, and some Dylan-balladworthy broken heart nonsense to escape, best handled by way of removing myself from Knoxville, and I sought the quiet small town of Claremont, because while it was boring as hell doing medical billing with a bunch of old ladies, it was a rest for my soul. When I returned 5 months later to K-town, I took a day off from work, and went to the DMV with my birth certificate and some utility bills, and explained to them that I was back in town, and needed to chance the address on my Driver License and my Handgun Carry Permit to my new one. They gave me my new license right then, and I had to wait for my updated carry permit in the mail. When it arrived, I proudly carried it in my wallet as before - it was still a good 2.5 years from expiring.
As my 3 long-time readers will recall, about a year ago, I got permit checked by a KPD officer who saw the butt of my gun on my belt - I was removing my leather jacket as I exited Wal-Mart in the summer heat, and should have waited another 5 seconds. Long story short, I stayed calm, got disarmed, got detained, got record-checked, got remonstrated, and got released. Then I got a bit angry, got an urge to write about it, got a report filed, got interviewed, got publicized, got apologized to, and got asked about it a whole lot.
Somewhere between then and the 3rd of July, someone fucked up real good. I know, because had my TN Handgun Carry Permit been cancelled back then on the 10th of June, I have no doubt I would have been hauled off to Le Knoxville Jail, and been made to sort it out later, after I made bail.
On the 3rd of July, The Lady and I were driving down to spend the weekend with my Family in Middle TN, and were pulled over by Officer Washburn for going 10 over the speed limit in Gallatin. I was speeding, no argument, and of course, pulled over. When the officer got my ID and vehicle registration, I gave him my permit and kept my hands on the wheel. He asked if I had any firearms in the car, I told him yes, the pistol on my hip. He asked me to keep it there, I willingly complied, and he went back to his cruiser to check up on me.
It took a long while for backup to arrive, apparently. When he returned, he had another officer keeping an eye on The Lady in the passenger seat, and informed me that the computer in his cruiser said my permit status was cancelled, and that I was going to get out of the car nice and slow. I did, about as nice and slow as anything I’ve ever done, and asked permission to reach down to unbuckle my seatbelt, while I was at it. I got to walk with my hands up to the back of the Jeepster, stand spread eagle, and got my Springfield Armory 1911, spare mag, pocketknife, Surefire light and keys removed from my immediate reach. It was just as much fun as last time, though this time, the officer was polite, and it was his backup officer who wanted to know what I needed a pocketknife AND a light AND a gun for - as she stood there wearing a pocketknife and a light and a gun. I decided not to answer that one, as I felt kind of certain that a smart aleck response was probably not going to help. I told Officer Washburn that I was sure my permit was still valid for at least another month, and he conditionally agreed, saying the it didn’t show expired, but “cancelled”. I got to sit in the back of the cruiser while the backup searched my vehicle, and The Lady had to undergo a weapons frisk as well.
Once she was permitted to go back and have a seat in the Jeepster while the backup officer quizzed her about me, Officer Washburn sat in the front of the cruiser, took down my personal details, and showed me, almost apologetically, that the computer showed no crimes in my background with the exception of a several years old parking ticket. He pulled up my information from the NICS database, and showed me the Handgun Carry Permit Line, and under status, the word “CANCELLED”. No reason, no explanation, just a single word. I told him truthfully that I had no idea, but I intended to find out as soon as possible - I was at this point absolutely wracking my brain trying to think what on earth I could have done to cause my Handgun Carry Permit to be cancelled. I was coming up with nothing, and the computer didn’t show a single crime on record - which was good, as the officer told me that anything on my record at that point other than a traffic cite, and this particular adventure would have ended in the Sumner County Jail.
As it was, Officer Washburn agreed that since the state’s own record system showed no reason for a revoked permit, neither crime nor conviction, that it probably was a mistake. He got on the radio, sought and received permission to release me as opposed to booking me in, cited me with the Misdemeanor Crime of Going Armed, gave me my traffic cite as well, kept my 1911, TN Handgun Carry Permit, and spare magazine, returned the light and pocketknife, and sent us on our way.
I will leave my reader to imagine how pleased I was to find myself 3 hours from home, suddenly disarmed and with a court date on August 6th, to prove that the carry permit I had been issued and carried in good faith since 2004, was worth the plastic it was printed on, so I could keep out of jail. The correct answer is: Not Very.
Even better, this was on a Thursday night, right before before the Glorious Fourth, so I had to wait until 9am the following Monday to get an answer from the TN Dept of Safety as to why, why, WHY exactly an Officer would tell me my Carry Permit was cancelled, and subsequently, take my stuff. Upon asking this of Jennifer at TN Dept of Safety in Nashville, I was told, to my surprise, that I was in New Hampshire, and subsequently, my permit had been cancelled without notice, sometime in the last year. I managed to keep my temper and informed her that I was not, in fact, in New Hampshire, had not been for almost 2 years, and had re-filed my chance of address upon re-arrival to TN, after which the very Department she worked for had reissued me a permit with that address on it.
“Oh” She said. “Oh, I see. Someone at DMV didn’t process your permit as a Returning Resident. Hmm…”
“Hmm, indeed.” I replied, “Say, do you think maybe you can fix that for me?”
“I can set your permit status back to active right here, yeah.” Click, click. “Ok, it’s valid again.”
“Do you think I can get a piece of paper that shows that my permit is valid? I have to show it to a judge so I don’t go to jail. It’s pretty important to me.”
Believe it or not, they actually have a set template letter for this - apparently, they do this a lot. It reads:
State of Tennessee
Department of Safety
1150 Foster Avenue
Nashville, Tennessee 37243
July 9, 2008
(Driver License Number)
After a review of you record this letter is to inform you that your handgun carry permit was in a cancelled status in error. We apologize for any inconvenience caused by this matter. It is out understanding that your handgun carry permit was confiscated due to this departmental error, please present this correspondence to the court in order to have your handgun carry permit returned to you.
Your permit has been returned to a valid status and at this time, you may continue to lawfully carry your weapon once your permit has been returned to you, once again we apologize for this error, if you have any further questions, please feel free to call (615)251-5356.
Handgun Permit Unit
To their credit, they sent me a replacement permit within a few days, so I could begin carrying one of my other pistols. I had to make three trips down - one to book myself into the Sumner County Correction System before my court date, mugshots, photos, and inevitable State, Federal and local background check - came back clean. I know, by now, I was kind of surprised by it, too. The second for my traffic ticket - Court costs, points on probabtion. The third was for my court date - only took about 3 hours of waiting in the courtroom, and about 3 minutes in front of the judge, who dismissed the case when he read the Dept of Safety’s letter. I don’t care how innocent of any wrongdoing you know for a fact you are, being told that your case is dismissed is a cool wash of relief. Officer Washburn, to his credit, saw me waiting in court, and took me out to the lobby to ask me if I’d gotten my permit straightened out. I showed him the letter, and he gave me directions to the Gallatin Police Dept. to retreive my firearm, spare mag, and $15 in 230Gr. Golden Saber ammo.
Except, of course, when I got there, the evidence officer told me they were running a stolen gun check on my own firearm, and it hadn’t come back yet. I informed him that after 3 straight weeks driving to Nashville and back on workdays, at $80 in gas a whack, I was rather hoping to get this cleared up now rather than later - I would put them in touch with the store I bought it from, even, because I work there. Didn’t help. So sorry. They might be able to ship it to me. Gotta wait for the background check.
That was last week, and considering I’ve left an unanswered message for him since then, and they still have a $1500 1911 that I’m rather fond of, I’m starting to think that by now, if ever there was a time that I was justified in being a bit annoyed with the faceless, useless, mindless bureaucracy, this is it.
Ask me to vote for the Status Quo, will you?
But hey, I’m sure if I spend my own money to sue them for it, then I’ll get it back, right? That’d be a lovely tribute to the effectiveness American Judicial system - after “defend yourself in court for carrying a firearm when you had a carry permit because we fucked up” I can look forward to, “bring a lawyer along, take us to court, and with any luck, after spending lots of time and money, things will be exactly as they were supposed to be in the first place, and you’ll get your property back, unless you lose the case.”
-ColtCCOPosted by ColtCCO on August 13th, 2008
First things first - Thanks to Glenn Reynolds, local guy, for drawing some nationwide attention to the situation. It helped me last time, it might work this time too.
Second, a clarification regarding the “stolen gun check” that Gallatin PD is running. It’s not merely a NICS database check, but rather an ATF trace, which is handled in a much less rushed fashion through the ATF National Tracing Center. They start with the manufacturer, and work their way forward to the purchaser, be it distributor, gun store, or individual, and then contact THEM to determine the next link in the chain. It can days, weeks or months to follow a decade-old gun across a dozen or more transactions. This procedure it used with firearms that have been used in a crime, and determines if at any point the firearm was stolen but not reported, used in a crime, or in the wrong hands.
The problem with doing that this way is that I bought the Springfield Armory 1911 in question from a gun store, the one where I work, and passed both a criminal background check and a stolen gun check for it. It was used when I bought it, a somewhat older model, and could have changed hands a dozen times or only twice. I just don’t feel that because the Gallatin PD’s “policy” (their words, it’s not law) is to trace every gun, that I should have to sit on my hands while the trace is completed, as no crime was committed with the firearms, nor did I commit any crime. I offered to provide the evidence officer with a copy of the 4473 form I filled out to purchase the firearm a few years back. They didn’t go for it, so that’s why I’m still here.
Third, I have deep thanks to everyone, for the offers of financial assistance, as well as a ride to Gallatin. I’m not accepting donations unless every other resource has been tapped, but I know that gun owners look out for their own, and it warms my heart. Hopefully a decently welll-written letter from an attorney to G.P.D. will do the trick, if not, then we move forward.
Updates as they arrive…
UPDATE to the Update - The NRA is on the case, and I will be hearing back from them shortly. Thanks to SayUncle, for getting me to do the obvious thing - talk to the NRA’s Legislative Counsel.
Tip o' the hat to http://billhobbs.com/