With Americans buying firearms at record-shattering levels and public opinion turning against gun control over the last few years, anti-gun groups and politicians are trying to convince firearm dealers to voluntarily refuse to sell firearms to some of their law-abiding customers.
The anti-gunners’ new effort tracks with the three-part plan outlined by the Brady Campaign in 1976, when it was known as the National Council to Control Handguns, to first “slow down the increasing number of handguns being produced and sold in this country,” and thereafter get handguns registered, then banned from private possession.
Except that now it’s not only about handguns, it’s about all firearms.
At issue is the federal law that requires firearm dealers to delay, for three business days, transfers of firearms to customers whose background checks are not quickly approved by the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). The delay is to give the FBI time to sort out background checks on the vast majority of persons whose identities or records cannot be ascertained immediately, but is necessarily limited to three days to prevent bureaucratic glitches from preventing people from acquiring firearms altogether.
As the FBI explains, “In most cases, the results of a background check yield definitive information regarding an individual’s eligibility when the firearm background [check] is initiated. However, not all inquiries can be provided a final status during the initial contact with the NICS Section,” for a variety of reasons. In such cases, the FBI says, “the NICS Section must search for the information needed to complete the record” and federal law “allows the [firearm dealer] to legally transfer the firearm if the NICS transaction is not resolved within 3 business days.”
13 anti-gun U.S. senators have asked Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s to refuse to sell firearms to customers whose background checks aren’t completed within three business days. So far, both retailers have rejected the demand. Michael Bloomberg’s Moms Demand Action group is making the same demand on Gander Mountain and the Sportsman’s Warehouse. And this week, U.S. Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.) and Brady Campaign president Dan Gross urged the same from firearm dealers nationwide.
The anti-gunners know more than they are telling, however. First, according to the FBI, if a background check cannot be completed within three days, “the NICS Section continues to search for the information necessary to make a final determination” and, if a person is determined to be prohibited, NICS will notify the BATFE to recover any firearms such person may have acquired. The FBI reports that in 2014, “The NICS Section forwarded 2,511 firearm retrieval referrals to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives,” something on the order of about 0.1 percent of all firearms sold by dealers that year.
Second, in some instances, even though the FBI continues working on an unresolved check after three days have passed, it will do so only for 90 days, after which time the check is terminated. Were dealers to acquiesce to anti-gunners’ new demand, people could be prevented from legally buying firearms by simply delaying their background checks until the time allotted for their checks expires.
That would certainly “slow down” firearm sales, while gun control supporters continue working toward the registration portion of their long-standing three-part plan by requiring background checks on private firearm sales.