GAO Report says thousands of errors in new Instant Check System: illegal purchases allowed and legal ones denied : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

GAO Report says instant gun check fails in some areas

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - A General Accounting Office study of the federal Brady Act illustrates the illusion of passing new gun laws when current ones are not being enforced, Sen. Craig Thomas said. The GAO report that Thomas requested found that 28 percent of the federal background checks performed on firearms buyers are not "instant" as the Brady Act requires.

In addition, the National Instant Check System has denied 1,505 law-abiding citizens the ability to buy guns because of error, while 3,353 people who are not allowed to buy guns were able to purchase a weapon, Thomas, R-Wyo., said.

"The report paints a sobering picture of a failure by federal agencies to enforce existing gun laws as Congress intended," he said. "The result is that the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens are being infringed upon while too often criminals seep through without consequence."

While 72 percent of the 8.8 million background checks under the first year of the system resulted in approval in 30 seconds or less, the remaining 28 percent of prospective gun buyers, or 1.2 million, faced delays ranging from hours to days in length.

The FBI concluded that most of the delayed background checks - about 80 percent of them - were resolved within two hours. But the remainder took several hours or even several days, sometimes requiring FBI research into state and local criminal records not currently integrated into the computer-based NICS system.

But because the Brady Act requires checks be completed within three days, some 3,353 prohibited individuals were able to complete their transactions before FBI or state officials could document their criminal histories, the GAO found.

Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agents were able to retrieve the weapons from 442 of those buyers, the report noted, and ATF officials told auditors that the "delayed denials are being ... worked as a priority." But only 110 of those wrongful buyers, or 3.3 percent, were referred to the ATF for criminal prosecution. The agency told the GAO that it screens such cases for priority prosecutions, but almost half of all referrals were closed without investigation or prosecution.

Thomas said the report's findings raise questions about President Clinton's push for more gun control.

"If during our oversight of current gun control laws it's found that criminals still get guns and a high number of legal gun purchases are denied, you have to question the effectiveness of additional layers of gun regulation," Thomas said. "We have to get serious about targeting and prosecuting the criminals and addressing the drug trade that often precipitates violence." ---

On the Net: Handgun Control, Inc. and The Center To Prevent Handgun Violence site is The National Rifle Association is General Accounting Office is

-- Carl Jenkins (, March 10, 2000

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