After slumping during the first few months of the Trump presidency, gun sales took off again on Black Friday.
A record 200,000 background checks for guns was reported by the FBI, a single-day record.
The surging numbers received by the bureau’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), comes just days after Attorney General Jeff Sessions ordered a sweeping review of the system, which allowed a court-martialed Air Force veteran to purchase the rifle used earlier this month to kill 25 people inside a Sutherland Springs, Texas, church.
The victims included a pregnant woman whose unborn child also died in the Nov. 5 massacre.
Following the shooting, the Air Force acknowledged it had not provided the FBI with details of the court martial, which likely would have blocked the 2016 sale of the murder weapon to Devin Kelley.
In a memo issued Wednesday, Sessions ordered the FBI and federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) to review the NICS system.
The breakdown in the Kelley case highlighted longstanding problems within the system, which for more than 20 years has served as the centerpiece of the government’s effort to block criminals from obtaining firearms. Yet it has largely struggled to keep pace with the volume of firearm transactions and still properly maintain the databases of criminal and mental health records necessary to determine whether buyers are eligible to purchase guns.
Last year, the FBI official overseeing NICS was forced to transfer personnel from construction projects and units that oversee the gathering of crime statistics to keep up with the surge of requests for background checks. The office processed a record 27.5 million background checks in 2016.
Stephen Morris, a former assistant FBI director, told USA TODAY after the shooting that the NICS system has long been plagued by incomplete or outdated information.
Has there ever been a better argument for holding off on piling on new regulations for background checks until the system is fixed? Common sense dictates that we repair what’s wrong with current background check procedures before we make it worse by adding additional regulations.
But there’s no such thing as “common sense” when it comes to gun regulation. The anti-gun lobby always tries to base their advocacy on appeals to emotion rather than logic. So far, they’ve failed in this effort. But a few more mass shootings, and who knows?
Was there a connection between AG Sessions’ announcement that the system was going to be reviewed and the surge in background checks? It’s possible, although statistics show that the overwhelming majority of people who purchase guns from a reputable source are law-abiding Americans who would have nothing to fear from a background check.
There is current legislation under consideration that would fix some of the problems with background checks. Enforcing existing laws should be the goal, not piling on more restrictions against law-abiding citizens purchasing firearms.