By Joe Bartozzi
As our nation continues to navigate its response to the COVID-19, we recognize the firearm industry, like many others, is being impacted. NSSF® is aware of delays within the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check (NICS) System. FFLs need to know that 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.
As we noted here on Monday, March 16, 2020, the NICS staff experienced more than a 300% increase compared to this same time period in 2019. States that process their own NICS checks are reporting similar spikes. Colorado’s Bureau of Investigation, for example, announced that checks last week were double the same week last year, and the increased volume has created a backlog of about 5,000 checks awaiting processing. Wait times have increased from between five and eight minutes to two days.
As we’ve seen in the past with other national events, our citizens often seek to exercise their Second Amendment rights during times of uncertainty. This is important to protect, as states and localities are considering measures that seek to shut non-essential businesses. There is nothing more essential than our Constitutional right to protect ourselves, our families and our property.
According to NICS, there are delays in the system due to an astronomical volume of transactions over the last several days. While much of the NICS System is automated and yields an immediate “proceed” or “deny” determination, transactions that result in a delayed status require the work of NICS examiners to investigate whether the transaction should be approved. 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.
Some states’ offices and agencies are considering options to protect the health and safety of their employees, which may include a reduction in staff or a temporary closure. For FFLs in one of these areas that receive a delayed response from the NICS, please note the Brady transfer date provided to you by the FBI could be extended beyond the normal three business days.
The three-business-day timeframe does not begin until relevant state offices are open for business. Additionally, because of the dramatic increase in volume, it is important to recognize that FBI staff may not be able to begin their research on delayed transactions as they normally would. It’s up to the FFL’s discretion, but they may want to consider waiting on a definitive response from the NICS before opting to proceed with a sale on any delayed transaction.
Patience and Prudence
These are exceptional and uncertain times, and FFLs may wish to consider implementing temporary changes in order to safeguard their businesses and communities. However, please note that when state offices are closed, it does not constitute a “business day” for purposes of calculating the “three business days” period before an FFL may transfer a firearm to a non-licensee as mandated by the Brady Act.
The NICS Section is working overtime to get through the backlog, and we appreciate their hard work and open communication. NSSF will continue to communicate with NICS and our members to ensure operations move forward as smoothly as possible during this period.
Joe Bartozzi is the President of the National Shooting Sports Foundation.
The National Shooting Sports Foundation is the trade association for the firearms industry. Its mission is to promote, protect and preserve hunting and the shooting sports. Formed in 1961, NSSF has a membership of thousands of manufacturers, distributors, firearms retailers, shooting ranges, sportsmen’s organizations and publishers nationwide. For more information, log on to www.nssf.org.