May 21, 2020
We reported recently how several Republican U.S. Senators had written a letter to the head of the FBI expressing concerns that background checks were taking an excessive amount of time during the COVID-19 pandemic’s greatly increased gun sales.
At the time, the senators had written to Christopher Ray, FBI director, “NICS was designed to provide a quick and accurate determination about whether a person can lawfully purchase a firearm from a federally licensed firearms dealer. Any unreasonable and unnecessary delay beyond the three business days unlawfully impedes the exercise of a person’s fundamental constitutional right.”
Not so ironically, a group of anti-gun Senate Democrats have followed that up with their own letter, complaining that gun dealers following the law by releasing firearms to purchasers after three days with no notice from the FBI to stop the sale are jumping the gun. It seems they’d rather see gun purchaser’s rights trampled during the emergency, rather than protected.
“The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) should issue guidance alerting FFLs that background checks are likely to take longer than three business days for NICS to complete during the pandemic, especially in states where state employees are working remotely,” the Democrats wrote to the ATF and FBI. “Moreover, guidance should urge FFLs to wait for NICS to complete those background checks before transferring firearms, and remind FFLs of their obligations under 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(b), (d), and (x) not to transfer firearms to any person whom they know, or have reasonable cause to believe, is prohibited from possessing a firearm.”
Under current federal law, all incomplete background check records must be deleted from NICS within 90 days. But apparently that safeguard built into the so-called “instant” check system doesn’t meet the senator’s approvals, either.
“Because the pandemic and recovery may last longer than 90 days, the FBI should issue an emergency directive to maintain all background-check information related to transactions with an ‘open’ status for 90 days beyond the current state of emergency,” the senators wrote.
To further meddle, the Democrats wrote: “The FBI should collate data on the number and percentage of background checks that have taken longer than three business days to complete in the past three months, broken down by week. Within one week of receipt of this letter, the FBI should provide Congress with this data and with a reasonable timeframe for NICS to complete background checks during the pandemic.”
Notable senators signing the letter include two current frontrunners for the Democrat vice presidential nomination—Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris.
“We appreciate your personal attention to these requests and look forward to your prompt reply,” the senators concluded. “Please let us know how we can help you protect our nation during the challenging times ahead.”
With the kind of “help” these anti-gun senators seem willing to give, one can only hope the FBI and ATF ignore their offer. As an “instant” background check that has never been “instant” becomes even more delayed during the pandemic and shelter-at-home orders, making gun purchases even more difficult should be flatly rejected.
Freelance writer and editor Mark Chesnut is the owner/editorial director at Red Setter Communications LLC. An avid hunter, shooter and political observer, he has been covering Second Amendment issues and politics on a near-daily basis for the past 20 years.