The threat of terrorism means there is heightened security just about everywhere we go these days, but the Channel 4 I-Team has exposed a system in Tennessee that allows explosives to potentially get into the wrong hands.
Agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives have their eyes on explosives now more than ever, especially following the deadly bombings at the Boston Marathon in April.
So, imagine the surprise when the Channel 4 I-Team informed the ATF about a convicted felon who was registered in Tennessee to handle explosives, something that is not allowed on the federal level.
"Convicted felons or prohibited individuals or persons should not have access to any of these explosives licensees," said ATF Agent Michael Knight.
The felon himself admits he was surprised, too.
"It kind of shocked me, in a sense, that they approved it," said convicted felon Jeremy Lollar.
Lollar was convicted nearly a decade ago for making meth. He then applied for an explosives handlers registration with the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance in August 2011.
He said he did it because it was required by the mining company where he was working, and, he said, two other felons he worked with also had registrations.
By law, Lollar is not permitted to have a gun but the state registration permits him to handle explosives.
A representative for the Department of Commerce and Insurance said Lollar was granted that registration because he didn't disclose that felony conviction on his application. What's more, the state agency confirms it doesn't conduct its own background checks before granting those registrations, and it doesn't verify background checks with the ATF before granting them.
The Channel 4 I-Team wanted to know what safeguards are in place to make sure a dangerous felon couldn't just get a state registration for the wrong reasons.
While no one with the state agency would go on camera for an interview, in an email a representative said having a felony conviction doesn't automatically bar an applicant from receiving a license.
Ask the felon who got one, and he'll tell you he knew he couldn't get a gun. So, why was he granted access to explosives?
"I used it to work for my job. I didn't go out and press the issue and try to buy a firearm or hunting rifle. I don't possess anything like that," Lollar said.
As for Lollar's application, he said he didn't intentionally falsify it. He said he misunderstood the question asking about prior convictions.
The state said in a lot of cases, someone will apply for both a federal explosives license and a state registration. When the feds do a background check and busts a felon, the state then finds out and could revoke the registration.
However, the ATF said it's that gap in time between passing the federal background check and getting the state registration that agents are most concerned about.
The state added that someone's state license will automatically be revoked if they find out they're denied a license at the federal level.
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