The Department of Justice is the main federal agency for enforcing federal gun control laws. For better or worse, there are plenty of such regulations and that means someone has to enforce it. That would be the DOJ, via the ATF and, to some extent, the FBI.
However, due to the pandemic, the depart says they need money. You see, COVID-19 and the demand for more firearms has created a situation the DOJ says they’re not able to take care of with current funding, so they need more.
As gun sales surge during the coronavirus pandemic, the Justice Department is asking Congress for more enforcement resources — including to confiscate guns from people who shouldn’t legally be able to own them.
In recent outreach to Capitol Hill, DOJ made two requests related to the spike in gun purchases, according to two sources with knowledge of those asks. First, the department asked for funding to help the FBI hire more staff to keep up with the growing number of background checks and appeal requests going through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. The bureau runs that system, which handles background checks on millions of gun buyers every year.
“The top priorities for the Department of Justice are to protect the safety and security of the American people and to ensure that Americans are not deprived of their constitutional rights,” said Stephen Boyd, head of the department’s Office of Legislative Affairs, in a statement. “Increased funding for NICS and ATF at this time is important to achieving those goals.”
The department also asked for more resources and personnel for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to deal with firearm retrievals and other field work related to delayed denials, according to the two sources. The term “delayed denials” refers to situations in which people buy weapons and take them home before the NICS system can flag those buyers as ineligible to own guns.
In other words, the surge in demand that’s swamped the NICS has created a situation the DOJ says they can’t get out of without more money.
To some degree, I get it. Increased funding to beef up the background check system will speed up the process for many to be able to get their firearms. People shouldn’t have to wait to buy their guns, which is why we have the NICS in the first place. Unfortunately, without prompt returns on background checks, that’s precisely what folks are forced to do. Fixing that is a big win.
My concern, though, is that once these agencies have this money for increased enforcement, they’ll feel obligated to continue “investigating” people so they can justify that money. How many well-intentioned folks will get jammed up over mistakes just so the feds can keep their funding levels?
It’s a question we need to consider, at the very least.
That said, beefing up the NICS so it can handle not just current levels but even greater increases in sales down the road is a very good thing we should all be on board with. Even if you disagree with the requirement for background checks–and I do–it is the law. The least we can do is try and make sure people can buy their guns when they need them, not three days later when they may be dead at the hands of some maniac.