FBI Doesn't Complete Tens Of Thousands Of Background Checks

FBI Doesn't Complete Tens Of Thousands Of Background Checks

Anytime someone goes to buy a gun from a licensed firearm dealer, their personal information is submitted for a background check. Most of the time, this check happens immediately or after just a short delay. Sometimes, though, it takes a bit longer. By law, after three days, you can purchase the gun. After all, you’d think they could pull up the relevant data within three days if there was anything to pull up.


That’s not always true, of course.

However, the media is apparently outraged to find out that tens of thousands of background checks are never completed by the agency.

Missed FBI deadlines may have made it easier to purchase guns, Roll Call reports.

Roll Call obtained previously unpublished data, which is not included in the FBI’s annual public report on gun background checks, that showed the FBI has left hundreds of thousands of gun background checks unfinished for years, despite an internal 2015 report that flagged the problem and suggested solutions. The incomplete checks result from an 88-day deadline after which the FBI must purge the checks from its computers, even if they aren’t done. Last year, for example, the agency processed 8.2 million checks, but 201,323 were purged.

Little has reportedly changed since the 2015 report — between 2014 and 2019, the FBI failed to complete over 1.1 million checks. The number even rose in 2016 and 2017 before dipping back down in 2018.

Of course, it’s not like those really matter at that point.

The article does go on to note the three day waiting period cutoff when purchasing a new gun but argues that many retailers wait the full 88 days. Now, that may be true, but let’s take a step back and look at whether this is a problem or not.


First, a couple hundred thousand incomplete background checks certainly sound like a lot. However, what are the odds that even a large percentage of those are to prohibited people? It’s not spectacular.

After all, prohibited individuals don’t know if their background check will flag immediately or if it will get caught up in the waiting game. Since most of those prohibited individuals are felons who are breaking the law by trying to buy a gun, it’s unlikely many of them are rolling up to the local gun store to buy.

We even have evidence that they’re not doing any such thing.

What that tells us is that those incomplete background checks aren’t really the problem some want to make them out as.

Further, there’s not likely to be any change to the rule that requires records to be purged after 88 days. Those records have to be purged. Failure to do so would constitute a bigger problem than the possibility that a felon might have purchased a gun at a gun store. Without that purge, what you’d have is the FBI sitting there with a type of gun registry. That’s illegal at the federal level and should be illegal at all levels of the government.


The fact is that background checks and the required paperwork are already treading a fine line of being a registration scheme as it is. Pushing for them to hold onto background check data for longer is a bridge too far for many of us.

Especially when we’re not seeing a bunch of bad people buying guns from their local gun store. In other words, this story is much ado about nothing.

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