An email from the Federal Bureau of Investigations’ National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) to federally licensed firearm dealers around the country is making the rounds. In the email, which went out Wednesday night, an FBI official assures dealers that the NICS system is not going offline.
This email is being sent to dispel any information that you may be receiving that the NICS will be out of service in the next 24 hours. At this time, there are no expected outages or maintenance of the NICS scheduled. The NICS is available and operating under normal hours of service.
Liaison Unit Chief
The email went out to a listserv, firstname.lastname@example.org. Licensed firearm dealers subscribe to that list to get updates on the system direct from FBI HQ in Washington.
NICS did not exist during the last government shutdown, in 1995-1996. But the FBI took its Amber Alert missing child web site offline early in the current shutdown, and gun dealers, owners and potential owners suspected that the Obama administration might order NICS taken down to put a halt to gun sales through licensed sellers. The Tatler checked on NICS a couple of days ago and found it up and running. The Koch email confirms that there are no plans to take it down.
The fear that NICS might become a casualty in the budget battle was not unfounded. The Federal Aviation Administration did the equivalent of taking NICS down, when it furloughed government staff who handle registrations of new aircraft. That decision was reversed after aircraft manufacturers protested.
The FBI, it can be surmised, is keeping NICS up and running to avoid having a public battle with the National Rifle Association while President Obama is using the shutdown to divide the Republican Party by making the shutdown painful.