Where NICS appeals go to die
Part of the Brady Bill, the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) went live at the tail-end of 1998 and since then they have processed 289 million checks. Most go through in under a minute.
I can remember working at a sporting good store for a few years moonlighting from my day job in my 20s and performing hundreds of checks in that time period. However, every now and then, you would get a “delay” while they are making a decision that requires more than a simple look-see. These come back later as either a “proceed” or a “denied.”
While there have been 1.5 million denials over the past 20 years, that doesn’t mean 1.5 million people who shouldn’t have a gun were kept from getting one.
In a lot of cases, guys with a spotty record will shop around and run a check several times over several years. Then again, there are a good many legit mixups, especially on people with common names. Odds are, if your name is Bill Johnson, there are probably a few prohibited firearms possessors that share your moniker, and it can jack up your profile– seems far-fetched but remember, this is the federal government here.
A lot of denials are appealed by those who were told to buzz off and, when the FBI eventually figures out where the mistake is, they fix it and the person gets greenlighted to buy a gun.
The problem is, appeals for denials have been glacial since 2015 due to understaffing at NICS, which means people who were refused for no reason can’t often get their record corrected.
I spoke with a pair of lawyers representing five plaintiffs (and 100 more pending) in a federal lawsuit who are in just a such a pickle. In covering the case for Guns.com, I have gotten several emails from readers who have similar problems, leading me to think this may be more widespread than people know.
More on the case here