Millions of people bought guns in the month of March. In fact, almost a million more bought them in March than in February in one of the biggest spikes in gun purchases ever. Further, many of them were new gun owners, people who had never purchased a firearm before in their lives. It was a good month for the gun industry, to say the least.
However, it was such a surge that the NICS had trouble keeping up. In fact, delays were and still are quite common.
As per law, though, delays can only keep someone from taking possession of their gun for so long. Unfortunately, for some gun-grabbing senators, that delay isn’t nearly long enough.
One day after the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) reported an unprecedented surge in background checks for prospective gun buyers, a coalition of 16 Democratic U.S. senators is expressing concerns about guns ending up in the hands of prohibited purchasers.
In a letter Thursday to FBI Director Christopher Wray and Acting Director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) Regina Lombardo, the senators warn that a dramatic increase in gun sales could “overwhelm” the FBI’s capacity to screen out domestic abusers, among those prohibited from owning firearms.
The letter, the result of an effort led by Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey and Connecticut Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, was obtained by Newsweek.
The FBI is chiefly responsible for conducting background checks through its National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), which searches three FBI-maintained databases to produce records indicating whether a prospective gun owner is prohibited by federal or state law from possessing a firearm.
In addition to Markey, Blumenthal and Murphy, the other signatories include Senators Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, Bob Menendez, Sherrod Brown, Chris Coons, Chris Van Hollen, Michael Bennet, Amy Klobuchar, Patty Murray, Tom Carper, Kirsten Gillibrand and Mazie Hirono.
In other words, it was the usual suspects. Shocking, I know.
However, what none of these senators seem to understand is that prohibited people have other ways to get guns. They know where to get a gun to completely sidestep the background check process, even in states with supposedly universal background checks. They’re not walking into a gun store looking to take advantage of the current chaos because they’ll bypass that altogether.
Part of the reason for that is the fact that in order to buy a gun from a licensed dealer, you still have to provide ID and fill out a form 4473. In other words, there will be a paper trail telling the powers that be that you tried to buy a gun. And that’s if things work like they’re expected to. There’s always a risk that at that moment, there’s no real delay.
So, prohibited people will skip it.
The senators in question, however, don’t understand any of that. How would they know what ordinary criminals do, right? Hell, most of them view all gun owners as potential criminals anyway.
What they’re asking for is two-fold.
One is they want the FBI to tell them how many background checks take longer than three days. I’m not sure why, since anyone with a brain can tell this is a somewhat temporary situation, but whatever. That’s not the end of the world, I suppose.
The other thing they want is for the FBI to issue an emergency directive that allows them to ignore the laws passed by Congress and hold onto background check data longer than 90 days.
That needs to be a non-starter.
Look, many of us are basically locked in our homes with almost no outlet for actual human contact beyond our immediate families and the grocery store. We’re facing curfews, having to work from home, having to educate our children ourselves, and otherwise have our entire lives upended because of the actions of politicians who did it with a stroke of the pen.
Many of us don’t like the requirements, but we’re tolerating them because it’s what we should be doing without the rules. We’re trying to protect our families from a deadly disease, so while we may not like the current rules, we’re following them.
But this is a call for a federal agency to just unilaterally decide to ignore the law and hold onto sensitive records for longer than the permitted time period. That’s a precedent we shouldn’t tolerate starting. We already have some speculating that we should use these same protocols to combat violent crime, for crying out loud. How long would it be before these same senators call on the FBI to hold onto data longer than the law allows so they can combat that “emergency” or whatever?
No, that’s a bridge too far.
Let’s hope the FBI has good enough sense to blow off a handful of rabidly anti-gun senators and protect the rights of law-abiding citizens who have done nothing wrong.