Senators Look to Bolster Firearm Background Check System as Sales Go Through the Roof

Posted: May 06, 2020 11:15 AM
Senators Look to Bolster Firearm Background Check System as Sales Go Through the Roof

Source: AP Photo/ Rick Bowmer

A number of Republican Senators are looking to bolster the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS])after back-to-back record-setting sales months in March and April.

"In response to the pandemic, millions of Americans practicing safe social distancing have lined up outside of firearm retailers in order to purchase firearms.  The resulting record-breaking surge has placed significant pressure on the National Instant Criminal Background System (NICS), which helps to ensure that criminals and other prohibited persons cannot gain access to firearms," Texas Senators Ted Cruz and John Cornyn wrote in a letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray this week. More than two-dozen other Senators also signed on.

"As our country continues to respond to the pandemic, we are seeking additional information on the impact the coronavirus has had on your agencies and the firearm transfer process so that we have a clearer picture on where things stand and how we can better assist through the legislative and appropriations process," the letter continues.

In March 3.7 million firearms were sold, breaking the all-time record. In April, 1.7 million firearms went out the door, a 71.3 percent increase over the previous year.

The demand has caused a backlog in the system and created unlawful waiting periods for purchasers.

"As our nation continues to navigate its response to the COVID-19, we recognize the firearm industry, like many other industries, is being impacted. NSSF® is aware of delays within the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check (NICS) System. We want you to know the FBI is on the job and working diligently to address the dramatic response and increase in background checks experienced over the past few days," the National Shooting Sports released in a March statement. "With daily volumes roughly double that of last year, the NICS team is unable to begin investigations on all delays within three business days, creating a backlog in the delayed checks."

Senators are concerned about this issue and offering additional resources to help streamline the process.

"Federal law expressly recognizes the right of law-abiding citizens to purchase and possess firearms but bars certain individuals like criminals and the dangerously mentally-ill. 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," the letter states. "Any unreasonable and unnecessary delay beyond the three business days unlawfully impedes the exercise of a person’s fundamental constitutional right."

“We appreciate that the current national emergency has brought about unprecedented challenges for the FBI and the ATF, and we appreciate that your agencies are working with significant challenges for staff and resources," the letter continues. “We are confident that through your leadership, we can work together to ensure that NICS remains up and running during this crisis and that law-abiding citizens are not deprived of their constitutional right to keep and bear arms, especially during these uncertain times."

Meanwhile, Americans across the country have been frustrated with excessive gun control laws during the Wuhan coronavirus crisis.

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