This latest Coronavirus is quite good at laying low until the time is right. For days it sits idle, remaining largely asymptomatic. Then the virus makes its move.
Like a virus attempting to infect its host, some liberal U.S. senators are trying to use Coronavirus as an excuse to stop gun sales. In a letter now made public and sent April 2 to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, several Democrat senators — Sens. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Edward Markey (D-Mass.) — urged the directors of the FBI and ATF to effectively halt pending gun sales nationwide. Citing the record surge in monthly gun sales in March and April, the senators sought to enact legislation long sought before Coronavirus struck.
The proposed legislation seeks to undo a federal statute previously created to protect Americans’ access to the Second Amendment. The statute in question requires the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) to process all background checks for firearm purchases within three days. If the background requires additional research and NICS cannot confirm or reject the background check within 72 hours, the gun sale must be allowed to proceed. The Democrat-controlled House last February passed House Resolution 1112, which seeks to give the feds this unfettered power to block gun sales without due process.
Besides giving an overburdened agency like the ATF the power to restrict Americans’ right to purchase a firearm, H.R. 1112 creates another problem: Current law says that a NICS background check only lasts for 30 calendar days once initiated by an FFL. Yet with the recent surge in gun sales and background checks, the NICS system is experiencing delays of up to three weeks for new gun purchases. If H.R. 1112 passes, many prospective gun owners might not be able to complete their new gun purchases when the system sees significant delays, because the legislation will, in practice, allow the NICS’ background check ‘clock’ to reset. That means if a gun purchase’s background check expires in 30 calendar days, H.R. 1112 will require that gun’s buyer to submit yet another background check. The buyer and dealer will be left with no other choice than to wait and hope the new background check doesn’t also expire before NICS has a chance to complete the check.
H.R. 1112 is a worrying piece of legislation for Second Amendment advocates because it gives the FBI unrestricted power to potentially ban an individual’s right to buy a gun. Without the safety of the existing regulation that allows a dealer to transfer a gun after three days, the nation’s federal law enforcement agency — which has a checkered history when it comes to respecting Constitutional rights, take civil asset forfeiture, for example — could deny every gun purchase to be made by an individual who has not been committed of a crime. It is currently standard practice for the FBI to delay firearms transactions to those on government watchlists, anyway. Those on such watchlists are not expressly prohibited from exercising their Constitutional rights, to include firearm ownership. But if the FBI were to receive the power to perpetually deny gun purchases through the NICS system, they would be denying those rights by proxy, and with clear intent.
According to the Congressional Research Service,
In the case of a possible watchlist match, NICS sends a delayed transfer (for up to three business days) response to the querying federally licensed gun dealer or state POC. During a delay, NICS staff contacts immediately the FBI Headquarters’ Counterterrorism Division and FBI Special Agents in the field, and a coordinated effort is made to research possibly unknown prohibiting factors. If no prohibiting factors are uncovered within this three-day period, firearms dealers may proceed with the transaction at their discretion. However, FBI counterterrorism officials continue to work the case for up to 90 days in case disposition information is returned that permits a final determination.
But with the removal of the three-day safety provision, the FBI would now be able to indefinitely apply such delays to gun purchases without ever producing sufficient evidence to block an American citizen’s right to bear arms. Yet liberal lawmakers claim that removing the three-day provision is an effort to remove the so-called “Charleston loophole.” This buzzphrase was born of the 2015 shooting of parishioners at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C. Lawmakers claim the perpetrator of the attack could have been stopped if the three-day background check provision was removed. That is patently false.
On April 11, 2015 the perpetrator of that shooting attempted to buy the gun he used in the shooting from a licensed dealer. His purchase was delayed due to an arrest for drug possession. The firearm was then transferred to him five days later. Yet the attack was carried out months later, on June 17. During that time, the FBI had the opportunity to investigate the shooter and make a determination of whether he should be prohibited from possessing a firearm. Yet even with NICS check flagging the shooter’s application to purchase a firearm, that did not happen. The FBI made false statements alleging the shooter was prohibited from possessing firearms, implying that had he been arrested, he would not have been able to carry out the shooting. He was not prohibited from possessing a firearm, even with his drug conviction. Using the Charleston case as evidence to support chipping away at the guarantee Americans currently have to access to the Second Amendment is fraudulent and misleading. May-issue licensing schemes always result in unconstitutional restrictions being placed on the individual.
H.R. 1112 currently resides on the calendar in the Senate. To help prevent the passage of this bill and the subsequent restrictions placed against the right to buy a gun, contact your senators. You can find your representative’s contact information here.