According to The Tennessean, U.S. Department of Justice records show 4.26 percent of applications to purchase guns were turned down statewide in 2010, based on criminal background checks. The national average was 1.47 percent.
More than half of those rejected in Tennessee eventually were allowed to buy guns.
Bob Armentrout said he has been frustrated by the background checks, which let him buy one firearm in 2009 but blocked him from buying a second weapon the very next day.
"I had bought a handgun the day before. It went through fine, no problem. The next day I went to buy a shotgun I had been looking at. It was rejected," Armentrout said.
Tennessee Bureau of Investigation spokeswoman Kristin Helm said the check system the agency uses is great for recording arrests, but sometimes doesn't get updated with the outcome of those cases.
That was apparently what happened to Armentrout, who had an out-of-state felony fraud charge that ended up being dismissed. He eventually got both the shotgun he wanted and a .22-calber pistol, which was also initially denied.
Justice Department figures show 12,728 of Tennessee's 298,832 permit applications were initially denied in 2010.
Gun dealer Curtis Dodson, who owns The Armory gun store in Lebanon, said the tardy reports on dismissed cases or those where the person was not convicted cost him customer goodwill.
"Not only is it frustrating, it's embarrassing," Dodson said. "That's probably the biggest source of frustration. We may not get that customer back."
Gun dealers charge a $10 background check fee, log onto the TBI system and see if the buyer is eligible. When the system rejects an application, there is no explanation of why. Sometimes, customers hold their rejection against the store.
The TBI's Helm said the checks are still a valuable tool.
"Waiting on the final outcome of an appeal might be an inconvenience on a small percentage of individuals," Helm said, "but that outweighs the risk of releasing a firearm to someone who is ineligible to purchase one."
Some people worry that, in the wake of the killing of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., proposed federal legislation could bring further frustration. One proposal calls for universal background checks to close the "flea market" loophole.
Helm said if that happens, the TBI could accommodate the added load.
"It would alter our staffing model a bit, requiring more work of staff and shifting the routine processing to the call takers," Helm said.
Information from: The Tennessean, http://www.tennessean.com