GAO: Background checks STILL don’t work

This just screams for comment, given that universal preemptively-prove-your-innocence prior restraint is probably going to pass next year.

GAO: Few Individuals Denied Firearms Purchases Are Prosecuted and ATF Should Assess Use of Warning Notices in Lieu of Prosecutions
Federal and selected state law enforcement agencies that process firearm-related background checks through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) collectively investigate and prosecute a small percentage of individuals who falsify information on a firearms form (e.g., do not disclose a felony conviction) and are denied a purchase. Federal NICS checks resulted in about 112,000 denied transactions in fiscal year 2017, of which the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) referred about 12,700 to its field divisions for further investigation. U.S. Attorney’s Offices (USAO) had prosecuted 12 of these cases as of June 2018.

CNN is reporting this as “More than 99.9% of those who were investigated escaped with nothing more than a warning.”

But that’s misleading. It’s far, far worse than that.

112,090 denials. 12 prosecutions. Only 0.0107% — a hair over one-one hundredth of one percent — of denials are prosecuted.

112,090 denials. Only 11% are even referred for investigation. Meaning it was clear that 89% of the denials were false positives. 89% of denials were clearly violations of constitutionally protected human/civil rights.

Of the 12,710 that warranted looking into, only 12 were clear enough cases of prohibited persons trying to obtain firearms to bother going to court. That suggests that the percentage of rights violations was actually 99.99%, but not necessarily.

ATF field divisions […] generally only refer cases to USAOs for prosecution when aggravating circumstances exist, such as violent felonies or multiple serious offenses over a short period of time.

It turns out that they referred 50 cases for prosecution. Fifty cases of people allegedly with a history of “violent felonies or multiple serious offenses over a short period of time” referred.

12 the prosecutors actually think can be prosecuted.

But there’s a big gap between 12,710 investigations and 50 prosecution referrals. And the report does not give a number for “proper denial, but we didn’t think it worth wasting our time,” or “Nope; X number shouldn’t have been denied.”

By the government’s own numbers, a bare minimum of 89% percent of false positive denials are proof that NICS background checks don’t work. The number could range as high as 99.99%.

Background checks don’t work. The results are meaningless. And the GAO essentially found that other folks agree with that assessment.

Officials from 10 of our 13 selected POC states said that they do not
investigate or prosecute NICS denials.

Here’s another number: 77% of states know NICS results are worthless and will not even try to investigate referred (the one’s which might actually be problems, much less the rest) denials.


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5 thoughts on “GAO: Background checks STILL don’t work”

  1. “Background checks don’t work.”
    Excuse me, but how do you square that statement with the headline:
    “GAO: Few Individuals Denied Firearms Purchases Are Prosecuted ”
    If the background checks don’t work, how is it those individuals were denied firearms purchases? Do you imagine the point of background checks is to catch criminals rather than to keep firearms from prohibited persons? Why do you imagine that?
    Perhaps the prosecutors feel that, the background check having done its job preventing a sale, the further prosecution of those offenders is not a good use of their resources.

    1. -blink-

      I’ve read your comment several times, and I’m still not sure if it’s satire or you’re serious.

      You may be satirically noting that, to gun controlling victim disarmers, interfering with 2A rights is the point; the more transactions they can slow or halt the better, and it doesn’t matter if it violates the rights of the innocent.

      But if you’re serious…

      The 5th amendment says one cannot be deprived of rights without due process. That would include 2A rights. “Due process” is defined in 5 U.S. Code § 554. So if a right to purchase a firearm is denied, the person is entitled to a trial to prove the deprivation of rights was proper.

      Additionally, if the intent of the law was merely to prevent convicted criminals purchasing firearms, and no punishment was intended, they could have made the act of a prohibited person attempting to purchase a firearm a simple civil violation.

      Instead, Congress decided that a felon (for example, as there are other types of prohibited persons) trying to buy a gun is committing a crime. And not merely a minor misdemeanor; it is a felony, and Congress specifically said it “shall be fined as provided in this title, imprisoned not more than 10 years, or both.”

      Shall, not may.

      Given that the ATF found that 99,380 didn’t even need to be investigated, much less referred for prosecution, I feel safe in assuming they were mistakenly denied their rights.

      Of the remaining 12,710 who were referred for investigation, only 50 were referred for prosecution. The report admits that some prohibited persons were not referred for prosecution, but gives no numbers; we cannot then tell how many of the remaining 12,660 were investigated and found to be innocent people deprived of their rights. The language of the report strongly implies that many were.

      A look at the 2017 NICS Operations Report gives an idea. NICS received 30,577 initial Voluntary Appeal File applications from people who believed they had been improperly denied their rights. They admit that they can’t keep up with all the appeals and “the processing of appeal requests was sporadic.”

      Sporadic. They barely touched the appeals, yet even so they had to overturn 3,977 deny transactions. Just of what they did check, nearly 4,000 people had been improperly denied their rights.

      That is not “working,” unless the goal is to violate rights under color of law.

      Another way we know background checks don’t work is the issue of false negatives; prohibited persons passing a NICS check. No one collates that data, but I find news reports of it happening almost weekly, when someone is arrested for a gun crime and they discover he bought the weapon from a licensed dealer and passed the check.

      And background checks cannot work if the prohibited person simply bypasses the system. Federal research (which matches my personal anecdotal observation) shows that 93% of firearms used in crimes were obtained through unlawful channels. Theft, obtaining the firearm from a friend or family member aware of the prohibited status, and black market sales top the list of unlawful channels.

      Background checks don’t work, except to violate rights, if you’re into that kind of thing.

      1. Friend of mine, a few years back, wanted to buy a rimfire rifle for his son A chain had them on sale, the model he wanted. He tried to buy it… DENY. HE knows he is not prohibited, so do I. He had had similar issues a coulle years prior, and tried to find out how to correct and clear HIS name. Turns out there is another buy with the same three names, resident of a different state thousands of miles away, and has a different birth date. He was so frustrated by the appeals process he never bothered. I learned of his troubles…. happened to be, about a week later, in a neighbouring state and happened to notice the rifle HE wanted on the same sale price at a different store in the chain where he tried to buy. I called him, he said GET IT. So I did. I passed BGC, paid, finished my trip and saw him on my return. Back then, private sales were unincumbered in our state. His son got the rifle at the discounted price.

        WHY was his name on the deny list? Different state of residence, different date of birth. is it that big a deal for someone to take a look at both recores and make a decision?

        BACKGROUND CHECKS DO NOT WORK. Here, it stopped a legal sale. Today, what happened would be considered illegal, as our state now prohibits private sales. So here is one man whose right to acquire firearms through the lawfully desingated channels is denied… with no practical route of appeal or correction.

        Meanwhile dirtbags like the ones at Aurora, Parkland, Sutherland Springs, Navy Yard, Fort Hood one and two, Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook, Lakewood WA, still get their guns…..


    2. then why have laws making felons in possession to be… a felon again?

      IF we are a nation of laws, and I posit that we are, then someone KNOWING he is a “prohibited person” who attempts to purchase a firearm is committing a serious crime. And MUST be apppropriately dealt with. Else why even prohibit anyone from the right to arm?

      Now, in the few cases where that felony was discharged, rights restored, etc, and the flony remains on his record due to some clerk’s laziness, the hearing persuant to the denial will be an opportunity to set that to rights.

      We all know that prohibited persons who KNOW they are such have many other means of acquiring their firearms.

      The FACT remains that the percentage of evil persons attempting to acquire arms through the “legal” channels is vanishlngly small. And there are laws already on the books making the purchase and/or supply of weapons to such people. So WHY place ilegal infringements upon the 99.999999% of law abiding americans because they “MIGHT” or “COULD” be a prohibited person? And, as we’ve seen, how many of the mass public shootings featured a killer who “lawfully” acquired the tools of his trade, IN SPITE of the myriad laws, policies, Mother May I Cards, checks, etc, to prevent this very thing?

      Then, consider the incredible cost to build and maintain these systems.. tax dolars wasted. Not that long ago anyone could walk, drive, or ride their bike, or roller skate down to some gun store, pick out a gun, plop cash money onto the counter, pick up his change and purchase and walk back out, the clerk having no clue who the purchaser is, his legal residence or status, age, history, intent.. and do this interstate. I’ve done it myself, fully in compliance with all federal and state laws, and did it as a non-resident of the state where the purchase took place. At that time I think there may have been a total of three mass public shootings going all the way back to the founding of our nation. But I did not know of any of them, because citizen disarmament was not the goal of a free press operating at that time, so no news feeds blasting the carnage all across the nation for a week, politicians chiming in, and Blooming Idiot being a blooming idiot. It was all a non-issue. The perps in those shootings broke plenty of laws already enacted, and they knew it going in.

      The dirtbag who shot up the school in Connecticut did not even attempt to pass a background check. Nor did he falter at committing somewhere between 30 and 40 felony offenses between the time he murdered his Mother to get HER guns, and when he alledgedly arrived at the school and before he shot his way into the school building and commenced the crime we all heard about for years.

      And we fuss over imposing MORE “background checks”? The insane thing is, he COULD have passed the backgrond check to get the rifle he supposedly used… because his “disabling crime” , the murder, had happened too recently to be registered with NICS.

      SSorry, background checks do NOT WORK.

  2. We are all guilty until proven innocent, don’t ya know?

    To deny a right on a temporary basis is that not still denying rights?

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