Background Checks and Firearms Purchases

Much is made by anti-gun activists about the need for “universal background checks.” This claim shows the speaker’s ignorance of the law and the facts. Let’s start with the basics. Anyone who goes to a sporting goods store or a gun shop and wants to purchase a pistol, rifle or shotgun, must fill out Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Agency (BATF) form ATF 4473.

The prospective purchaser has to show a valid government ID before he or she fills out the form. Once it is completed, the form is run through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) to see if the prospective purchaser can legally purchase the firearm.

Any individual who has been convicted of a crime punishable by more than a year in prison; or for which there is a warrant for their arrest; is an illegal alien; is addicted to a controlled substance; received a dishonorable discharge from the U.S. military; has been the subject to a restraining order that keeps them from harassing, threatening an intimate partner or child; and the list goes on.

Failure to provide accurate information on a Form 4473 is a felony for which, if convicted, can put you in jail for up to five years. According to GAO Report 18-44- (, in 2017, 8,606,286 Form 4473s were run through the NICS. Of these, 112,090 were denied for one reason or another. The BATF investigated only 12,710 and a paltry 12 resulted in prosecutions.

The point is that there is a background check system in place and it is working. However, it is not perfect because the NCIS can only check a Form 4473 against what is in the database. So, if healthcare professionals, the U.S. Military and other government agencies don’t do their job and feed the NICS with accurate data, people who shouldn’t be able to purchase a firearm legally will be able to do so.

Many murders and two recent mass shootings – at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina and the Sutherland Church in New Braunfels, Texas – may have been prevented if those responsible for reporting data to the NICS fulfilled their obligations.

Dyan Roof’s conviction for unlawful possession of the drug Suboxone a month prior made him ineligible to own a firearm under the Gun Control Act of 1968. Devin Kelly would never had been able to legally purchase a firearm if the U.S. Air Force reported that a court martial convicted him for domestic violence.

Today, the validity or even value of the NICS is being compromised by states offering drivers licenses to illegal aliens. An illegal immigrant in the state of New York, New Jersey or California can now get a driver’s license. This will allow the individual to walk into any gun store and fill out a form ATF 4473. Even though as an illegal alien, he or she is not eligible to legally purchase a weapon, the transaction will be approved. Why? Because the individual is not in the NICS.

My point is this. Most, if not the vast majority of gun owners agree that background checks are needed. However, in order to make them effective, the database on which the check is made, must be up to date. Actions by several states, many of which have restrictive gun laws, are literally shooting themselves in the foot because by issuing drivers licenses to illegal immigrants, they are helping facilitate the very thing they are trying to restrict, which is gun ownership.

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