This Just In: NICS Instant Background Checks Will Continue. Slowly.

As a federal government shutdown looms, TTAG’s been trying to get the definitive 411 on its possible impacts on potential gun buyers. The burning question: will the Congressional funding spat will put an indefinite kibosh on non-private gun purchases? If the NICS stops processing instant background checks, this will virtually eliminate commercial firearm purchases in the Land Of The Free . . .

This backhanded one-stop gun control measure has had me a bit worried. So I started calling the ATF and FBI for answers yesterday. In typical Bureaucratese, the only on-the-record answer I could get was the non-answer “This question is above my pay grade.”

After getting kicked farther and farther up the chain of command with no response from the top of the agency, my gunsmith came through with the official notification from the bottom. His NICS contact sent him following reassurance:

Date: Fri, 8 Apr 2011
From: blahblahblah@blahblahblah.fbi.gov
To: blahblahblah@blahblahblah.com
Subject: Furlough

The NICS will be operating with a limited staff if a furlough takes place. The staff will be handling all incoming calls and working NICS transactions in the event of a furlough.

The English translation?  They’ll still process NICS requests, but expect long(er) delays than usual. There is also a possibility that a log-jam will occur; the longer the longer than usual delays, the longer the delays. As usual.

This is better news than I expected; there are some in Congress (cough Schumer cough Boxer cough) who probably wouldn’t mind a vacation from the Second Amendment, especially if they could try to blame it on the Tea Party.

LATE FRIDAY UPDATE:

I just got a direct answer from the DOJ: NICS background checks will continue in the event of a government shutdown. Here’s the text:

In the event of a government shutdown, the Department of Justice’s critical national security, law enforcement, and prison operations – operations that are necessary to safely protect life and property – will continue. The Department’s critical national security mission will continue uninterrupted during a shutdown, and the department will stand ready to respond to any and all contingencies that might arise during a government shutdown. All FBI personnel in the field will continue to work, as will the vast majority of National Security Division employees. The Department will continue to fully execute its traditional law enforcement missions during a shutdown.

And DOJ spokesperson Jessica Smith added personally, “Chris:
Background checks will continue, if the government is shut down.”

Considering that Ms. Smith and 799,000 other federal workers are wondering if they’re going to get paid next week, I appreciate that she took the time to respond personally.