Gun stores have a difficult job. While it sounds like a heck of an awesome way to make a living, surrounded by firearms, but that’s before you take into account the reams of paperwork required by the federal government just to be legal. One screw up can have some nasty ramifications on your livelihood and possibly your freedom.

To make matters worse, however, is that the same federal government can screw your business over just by not doing anything.

This past weekend was supposed to be one of the most profitable for Scott Roe, the owner of Spillway Sportsman off Highway 1.

“Firearms sales are a huge push this time of year,” Roe said.

However, many of his Christmas shoppers left empty-handed because Roe could not perform the federally required background checks. He said the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) was inaccessible.

The two dealers estimate the system crash cost them $70,000 combined. They said it’s been a recurring problem the weekend before Christmas for a few years now.

“When the government can effectively shut you down, it’s scary,” [Jim] McClain said.

The FBI acknowledged an issue occurred on its NICS website. WBRZ contacted a number of gun stores across the state. Dealers said the system crashes every year before Christmas, probably because of a large number of background checks being conducted.

Further, it appears you couldn’t call in for a background check either.

Here’s the kicker, though. You know who will get in trouble for this? No one. Not a soul.

One retailer alone lost out on $70,000 in sales. It doesn’t take long before you’re talking millions in lost revenue for just a two-day outage.  Now, I get that these are gross receipts we’re talking about here, rather than what goes in the dealers’ pockets, but even so, I don’t imagine too many are able to just shrug off $70,000 in lost sales.

But no one in the government seems inclined to step up and try and make sure business have the means to operate in accordance with the law.

If the NICS crashes this time every year, then why hasn’t anyone looked at beefing up the system? Especially now when you have an ostensibly pro-gun Congress. Making the NICS more functional is one of those issues that’s likely to draw little opposition. Republicans want to make it possible for people to buy guns when they want and Democrats would likely want to make sure the background check system actually works when it’s needed. No one loses.

Yet we can’t seem to get anyone to say, “You know what? We should probably do that.”

If there were no other reasons to oppose universal background checks, this would be it. If I want to sell a gun because I need the cash, why should I have to wait because Uncle Sam can’t get his NICS act together? It’s not my fault the system is overloaded, for crying out loud. It’s not these gun stores’ fault either, so why are we allowing them to be punished for what seems to be a known problem?

If you’re going to have a NICS system in the first place, make sure the blasted thing works when needed.