What If They Gave a Background Check and Nobody Came?

“What’s wrong with requiring a background check to buy a gun?”

I wish I had a dollar for every time somebody asked me that question, but a story that surfaced this week might help provide a little clarity.

When a NICS background check is submitted for approval, one of the possible responses is “denied.” In the event of a denial, the applicant has the option of appealing the finding. The problem which surfaced this week is that the FBI announced that it is stopping the processing of such appeals “indefinitely.”

Due to the volume of new NICS background checks, the FBI says it has had to reassign personnel normally dedicated to the appeals process to handle the increase in new requests. What this means is that if you have been denied and appealed that finding, you can suck it.

But what’s the big deal? I mean, the 7,100 pending denial appeals are all bad people…aren’t they?
Not necessarily. While there are certainly some in that pool which were rightly denied, many are denied simply due to mistaken identity or other inaccurate information. Those people are being denied access to a Constitutionally guaranteed civil right for no other reason than bureaucratic inefficiency.

But hey…you have to break some eggs to make an omelet, and and you have to violate some rights to insure that criminals can’t get guns, right? That assumes that the existence of the background check system actually keeps guns out of criminal hands. While anti-gun rights organizations are fond of pointing to the number of NICS denials as evidence of the effectiveness of background checks, the truth is that these numbers have little to do with the way that criminals acquire guns.

Think he’s appealing a denied NICS check? (It’s a trick question: he’s not submitting to a background check in the first place)

This is because criminals simply do not submit to background checks. Criminals most often get guns from friends and family, black market street sources, or they steal them. Therefore, criminals are largely unaffected by the NICS system. So who does submit to background checks? Law-abiding citizens, that’s who. So the most likely person to be appealing a denied background check is going to be a law-abiding citizen who is the victim of mistaken identity or inaccurate information in the NICS system.

So as your mechanic might say, “there’s your problem right there.” Law-abiding citizens are denied access to a civil right, and criminals go about their business…simply because the government can’t get around to it. That’s what’s wrong with background checks.

— Dave Cole

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