Delays In Firearm Background Checks-Requests Up 300 Percent

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February 25, 2020

As our nation continues to navigate its response to the COVID-19, we recognize the firearm industry, like many other industries, is being impacted. The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) is aware of delays within the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check (NICS) System.

“We want you to know the FBI is on the job and working diligently to address the dramatic response and increase in background checks experienced over the past few days. Just yesterday, Monday, March 16, 2020, the NICS staff experienced over a 300 percent increase compared to this same time period in 2019. As we’ve seen in the past with other national events, our citizens often seek to exercise their Second Amendment rights during times of uncertainty. Therefore transparent communication remains a top priority.”


According to NICS, there are delays in the system due to an astronomical volume of transactions over the last several days. While much of the NICS System is automated and yields an immediate “proceed” or “deny” determination, transactions that result in a delayed status require the work of NICS examiners to investigate whether the transaction should be approved or not. With daily volumes roughly double that of last year, the NICS team is unable to begin investigations on all delays within three business days, creating a backlog in the delayed checks.

Some state offices and agencies are considering options to protect the health and safety of their employees, which may include a reduction in staff or a temporary closure. If you operate in one of these areas and if you receive a delayed response from the NICS, please note the Brady transfer date provided to you by the FBI could be extended beyond the normal three business days. The three business day timeframe does not begin until relevant state offices are open for business. Additionally, because of the dramatic increase in volume, it is important to recognize FBI staff may not be able to begin their research on delayed transactions as they normally would. Therefore, you may want to consider waiting on a definitive response from the NICS before opting to proceed with a sale on any delayed transaction. We are operating during exceptional and uncertain times, so you may wish to consider implementing temporary changes in order to safeguard yourself and your business. However, please note that when state offices are closed it does not constitute a “business day” for purposes of calculating the “three business days” period before an FFL may transfer a firearm to a non-licensee as mandated by the Brady Act.

The NICS Section is working overtime to get through the backlog and we appreciate their hard work and open communication. NSSF will continue to communicate with NICS and our members to ensure operations move forward as smoothly as possible during this period.

Source: National Shooting Sports Foundation

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