Most law-abiding Americans over the age of 18 enjoy the right to purchase a firearm from a Federal Firearms Licensee (FFL or gun dealer) following an instant background check through the FBI’s National Instant Background Check System (NICS). A minority of law-abiding adults, who may share personal characteristics with a prohibited person (name, physical description, etc.) or have a non-prohibiting record within the system, are delayed from purchasing a firearm while further research is conducted. In the case of a delay, the FFL may transfer the firearm to a prospective purchaser after 3 business days have elapsed since the background check was initiated, which ensures the government cannot arbitrarily deny a law-abiding individual’s Second Amendment rights by delaying the transfer in perpetuity.
Senate Gun Control Package
The Senate gun control package would eliminate the instant check for adults ages 18-20. Moreover, in practice, the scheme would place a 3 to 10-business day waiting period on these adults purchasing shotguns and rifles.
Under the legislation, when an FFL contacts the NICS to run a background check on a purchaser under the age of 21, the NICS would be required to contact additional state and local government agencies in the prospective purchaser’s jurisdiction before approving the firearm transfer. This includes the state agency responsible for juvenile criminal justice records, the state custodian of mental health records, and the “local law enforcement agency of the jurisdiction in which the person resides.”
These queries take time. Further, unlike the NICS, these state and local agencies are not necessarily designed or equipped to handle these types of requests in an instant or even timely fashion. Therefore, no law-abiding 18-20-year-old adult would experience an instant background check.
While the firearm transfer is supposed to be approved as soon as these state and local agencies respond to the NICS query, the legislation grants the NICS 3 business days to perform these checks. Given the obvious problems attendant the interaction of federal, state, and local bureaucracies, these gun buyers should expect to wait a minimum of 3 business days for a firearm purchase.
Worse, the legislation demands that the NICS extend the 3-business day check period to 10 business days (two full weeks) if “cause exists to further investigate a possibly disqualifying juvenile record.” The requisite “cause” to prompt the 10-business day waiting period is not defined by the legislation.
The Biden Department of Justice, led by anti-Second Amendment Attorney General Merrick Garland, would be tasked with determining what constitutes “cause” to trigger the 10-business day waiting period. It is reasonable to believe that this may include any record of juvenile disciplinary action (no matter how minor), personal characteristics similar to a known prohibited person, or even something as simple as the prospective purchaser’s local sheriff’s office failing to respond the NICS’s request for information.
Both President Biden and Attorney General Garland have advocated for gun control and expressed doubt as to whether the Second Amendment protects an individual right to keep and bear arms. Gun owners have every reason to believe that the already problematic language of the Senate gun control package would be interpreted in a manner to prevent the lawful exercise of the Second Amendment right.