CO Background Check System Overwhelmed, Wait Time: 8 Days, 5 Hours

The state of Colorado officially has no waiting period for the purchase of firearms. According to state law, you’re able to walk in the door of your favorite gun store and walk out with the gat of your choice within about a half hour (including paperwork). But while most states use the FBI’s National Instant Check System to perform their background checks, Colorado relies on the Colorado Bureau of Investigation to do all background checks for firearms (which are required for every sale through a gun dealer). And they are completely and totally swamped . . .

There are two interesting points to make here. It’s not news that firearms sales are most decidedly through the roof. The CBI can handle the “normal” volume of background checks, but the stratospheric demand for firearms means that they’re basically under a DDoS attack from gun shops. There are just too many requests for the pipeline that was built to handle the volume. It’s a great thing for the gun industry and we’re probably bringing a few new gun owners into the fold, which is exactly what we need.

But there’s an obvious downside to all this. There’s now a de facto waiting period in Colorado to purchase a gun, one imposed by the police alone with no legislative basis. It’s more than slightly troubling that speed brakes of that magnitude can be applied to legal firearms purchases without any legislative action.

I’m not seeing the light at the end of the tunnel for the current run on firearms yet, but thanks to the CBI’s Twitter updates, I think I’ve found a pretty good way to keep my finger on the pulse of the gun industry. When they start gaining ground on that backlog I’ll know that we’re heading back toward some sense of normalcy.

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About Nick Leghorn

Nick Leghorn is a gun nerd living and working in San Antonio, Texas. In his free time, he's a competition shooter (USPSA, 3-gun and NRA High Power), aspiring pilot, and enjoys mixing statistics and science with firearms. Now on sale: Getting Started with Firearms by yours truly!

54 Responses to CO Background Check System Overwhelmed, Wait Time: 8 Days, 5 Hours

  1. The law should be that if the Govt can not process your background check withing 5 minutes, you automatically pass…. or the govt should compensate people for their inconvenience. How is it that the Govt has to get their tax money on time, or they penalize and add interest… we on the other hand have to wait for government.

    • avatarAnmut says:

      I would say that if the CBI can’t handle the volume they should be running the background checks through the national database – and that should be an instant law.

      • avatarTotenglocke says:

        At minimum it should be “CBI does the background checks. If CBI does not have the resources to handle the number of incoming background checks, calls in the queue will be routed to the NICS system”.

      • avatarAPBTFan says:

        No legitimate reason they aren’t, and haven’t been, using NICS.

    • avatarIn Memphis says:

      Because they are the government and because of uneducated voters and indifferent non-voters we are stuck with a dictator… uh leadership that does what they want

    • avatarBob says:

      Fully intentional. This is simply gun control through the back door.

  2. avatarCCW Guy says:

    My wife asked me to get the kids out of the house today so she could do some work. I brought them to both Cabelas and Bass Pro Shop. I would say there was a line of about 20 people at each location waiting. Shelves were bare of “popular” caliber ammo. Full capacity Glocks were sparse at each location but S&W M&P’s seemed to be on hand. I went to the used gun section in one store and found some reasonably priced Glocks but no scary black rifles what so ever. If I was in the market I would be looking at used firearms from reputable manufacturers from a reputable national or local shop.
    That’s my opinion.
    Happy New Year and keep your powder dry.

  3. avatarHowdy says:

    Howdy,
    I am a resident of Aurora, CO. I am curious to know how long it’s taking for everyone else to get their background checks. If willing, please include the date. Just trying to get a bearing on this.

    Not sure why we are going through a state background check as opposed to a national one. I am guessing some of it has to do with power, money, lessening of dependence, privacy, etc. I don’t actually have any facts to support any of that.

    Are there other states that do this?

    Thank you and Happy New Year!

    • avatarSeth says:

      I am just now getting back result that were submitted to CBI on the 21st.

      • avatarJeff O. says:

        Here in Idaho, I walked in to Cabela’s at 6:45 and left at 7:15 with an XD(m).

        There really wasn’t any more line than normal and they seemed to be only about 1/3 down on their stock of guns, but totally out of popular calibers in the cheaper brands, but totally out of .223.

        • avatarBarstow Cowboy says:

          …that’s probably because 2/3 of Idaho’s 422 residents are in Arizona right now for the winter.

    • avatarKnowWhatIamTalkingAbout says:

      Put my check in for 12/21 (in CO), and on the following Saturday morning I was able to pick up my firearm . so about 7 days later .

    • avatarAPBTFan says:

      Arizona goes through NICS. I bought a Taurus 709 two months ago here in Phoenix and the phone call took less time that it took for me to fill out the 4473. Same with my last two purchases this year.

    • avatarThomas Paine says:

      Pa has it’s own PA police check system called PICS. Not sure the wait for that, because there are no good guns left for sale. My local gunshop who usually frowns on online transfers, actually said that they now welcome transfers, because they can’t get any stock in anything people are buying.

    • avatarcaptain america says:

      Mine was entered into the system with a 72 hour wait, on December 23rd around 1:00 pm it is now January 1st 3:00 pm and I still haven’t gotten word that it has cleared. I believe CBI is intentionally taking there sweet ass time and milking it because the want to make it look like they abslutely need that $500,000 from lawmakers. I don’t get how they go from 2,000-3,000 a day . to now only processing 700 a day and their working extended hours. It’s pathetic

    • avatarDonald McQueen says:

      Today is 02/02/2013 and I have been waiting 8 days so far and still nothing from cbi its taking 7-10 days to clear for a gun purchase so I have been told.
      Cabelas in Grand Junction Co (gun dept) wont even answer their phone. Because their too busy so the Cabelas operator told me. As of today there is no sign that anything that has to do with guns is slowing down. The popular ammo is all sold out and no one knows nuttin about nuttin !! Lots o luck on buying a gun or ammo. Its absolute crazy out there..

  4. avatarSeth says:

    I am an FFL holder in Colorado and the wait times we have seen are totally unprecedented. It is crazy that I could run background checks in less that 15 minutes in some cases just a couple months ago. CBI has even expanded their open times and still cannot make any ground on the applications being filed on a daily basis. Not to mention we are now seeing this :

    http://www.denverpost.com/breakingnews/ci_22289245/colorado-lawmaker-eyes-imposing-fee-gun-buyers

    As a possibility from our legislators. Now is the time to stand up and be heard!

    • avatarMike in NC says:

      Looks like a good time to push for your concealed carry permits to be accepted in place of the CBI check. Sure is a nice feature here in NC and in many other states.

      • avatarAPBTFan says:

        Same here in AZ. We have Constitutional Carry but it’s a nice fringe benefit to having a CCW.

        • avatarspeedracer5050 says:

          Same here In Arkansas, if you have a valid ccw then no NICS check necessary.
          Happy New Year Everyone!
          Have a safe and prosperous new year!!

  5. avatarSanchanim says:

    Well to CBi’s credit they are at least letting folks know that they are aware of the issue. It does suck that it is taking so long. Although I think there are other states where if they don’t get back to you within a certain period of time you basically get the gun period. I think CA is like this.
    None the less it is crazy. I mean people are buying like the zombie apocalypse is here!
    If you are an LGS life is good, except you can’t get more stock, and everyone from gun manufacturers ammo suppliers, and probably folks who make add on stuff, probably can’t keep up with production.
    On a light note, this is just fantastic for the economy!

  6. avatarjwm says:

    How many people buying guns does it take to create an 8 day backlog in the system? We will soon have, if we don’t already, enough guns in circulation to arm every man, woman, and child in America.

    In my youth you could mail order guns to your house. There was no waiting periods. And there were nowhere near this many guns in America. Most people that owned guns were hunters and farmers. What happened?

    This is only my opinion. YMMV. But I think that starting with the 68gca honest people had to make a choice, fight for their rights or lose them. I think that this level of gun ownership in America is a direct result of the people pushing for gun control.

    Every time the anti’s push it riles us up and we push back. When I was a kid the guns were mostly “traditional” civilian guns and there were very few shall issue type laws in America.

    Odd as it sounds I think gun ownership would have mostly died out in modern urbanized America if not for the efforts of the anti’s. The NRA had to change to meet the threat and new guns rights groups were born. We’ll never know for sure but I’m willing to bet that if not for people like Difi and her type gun ownership in America wouldn’t be 10% of what it is now.

    So thank you mikeyb, hmmmmmm, low budget dave and the rest for insuring that America is the most armed nation in the world.

    • avatarRalph says:

      I think that this level of gun ownership in America is a direct result of the people pushing for gun control.

      I think you’re absolutely right. Gun control galvanized a lot of people into action. Civil unrest during the sixties and seventies were big motivators too. A lot of Americans figured out that we better get ‘em while we can, and we better get ‘em before we need ‘em.

      • avatarThomas Paine says:

        DO THE MATH!

        12604 firearms in 8 days = 575,000 per year !!!!

        Colorado has 5 million persons.
        500,000 veterans
        220,000 African Americans
        340,000 children under age 5

        Twist that any way you want.

        • avatarSanchanim says:

          The numbers are good..
          It doesn’t matter how you twist it. After Aurora we saw CCW permits skyrocket, now we see across America people buying at unprecedented levels.

        • avatarTroy says:

          12,604 isn’t necessarily the number of firearms – it’s the number of 4473′s submitted for purchase. Many people I know who are buying right now are purchasing multiple firearms on each 4473 they’ve submitted since mid-December here in CO.

    • avatarAPBTFan says:

      ” We will soon have, if we don’t already, enough guns in circulation to arm every man, woman, and child in America”

      I believe it was something like 9 guns for every 10 citizens. Thanks to the Libs it’s prolly a fair bit more now. I love the irony. If they’d have just kept their yaps shut any one of us could walk into any LGS and buy an AR with all the ammo we wanted no sweat but their flappin’ yaps have, and will continue to, clear the shelves of all the stuff they hate.

      • avatarMike in NC says:

        The grabbers really wanted sales to end the way they did at Dick’s Sporting Goods with vendors pulling items from sale under pressure. NOW they finally do get their wish of reduced AR sales, but only because every AR that could be assembled and sold has been sold.

        I thought that we were around 88 firearms per 100 people way back in 2007. We are now five years on and probably fifty million more firearms for roughly twelve million more people. That puts us very near 1:1 parity.

    • avatarIn Memphis says:

      It reassures me each time I go to my local range/store. Not that Im nosey or voyeristic but minimal observation leads me to believe a lot of people are first time buyers. The permit classes seem packed too.

      • avatarMatt in FL says:

        Yeah, I’ve noticed this too. I would thumbnail estimate that easily half the conversations I’ve overheard recently sound like they were people that are “new to all this.”

    • avatarAPBTFan says:

      “How many people buying guns does it take to create an 8 day backlog in the system?”

      Enough Americans waking up.

  7. avatarMike in NC says:

    When they start gaining ground on that backlog I’ll know that we’re heading back toward some sense of normalcy.

    Unless something happens to calm the near-panic buying, the backlog is more likely to begin decreasing only as a result of store shelves and supply chains being emptied. We are a long way from normalcy.

  8. avatarRob says:

    Dear Colorado gun buyers,

    HA! Now you know how it feels!!!

    Sincerely,

    A California gun buyer.

    • avatarSanchanim says:

      Oh Rob, that is so cruel!!! LMAO
      I feel ya man.. I feel ya!

    • avatarDonS says:

      Having lived in CA for 45+ years, I already know how it feels.

      I moved to CO in 2011. Within the first few months, I acquired a concealed handgun permit, carry pistol w/ 11-rd mags, and an XM-15 w/ several 30-rd mags. The firearm purchases took 20 minutes each. I had the CHP 14 days after applying.

      I can be cruel, too :)

      To their credit, CBI is trying to address the backlog. They’re processing the checks 18 hours per day (federal database they use is shut down for 6) seven days a week. They’re also asking legislators for an additional $500k to process checks faster.

    • avatarHowdy says:

      Not really.
      No bullet buttons, widely accepted CCW and mags in any size and color allowed just about everywhere (not Denver). The wait time is likely temporary.
      So um, double HA!

      I feel bad for the California Gun Owners.

  9. avatarTroy says:

    I’m a CO resident. I don’t know where the CBI is getting the 8 day number from – most of my friends are going on nearly 2 weeks waiting for their background check. It’s been absolutely insane here with the sales at ALL of the local gun stores.

    • avatarSanchanim says:

      Question is, are there guns to be had?
      I am sure there are some, but dang a visit to my local LGS it looks like they are out of business.. There is very little left on the shelves.

      • avatarTroy says:

        Anything that people are fearing may be banned are completely gone from stores around here. There are some revolvers, lever actions, and non-magazine-fed bolt action rifles left. What I’ve been seeing is that the wait times now are driven by internet orders that have arrived at FFLs who are doing the transfers for buyers (I’m in this camp).

    • avatarMatt in SD says:

      8 business days? That’s nearly 2 weeks :)

      • avatarTroy says:

        Keep in mind that the CBI processes investigations on Saturdays and Sundays, so 2 weeks means 14 days.

    • avatarDonS says:

      According to the CBI’s twitter updates… Yesterday (31 Dec) morning at 0600 they were processing checks from 1300 on 22 Dec. Nine calendar days (less 7 hours).

      If your friends purchased before 1300 22 Dec, their checks should be completed.

  10. avatarST says:

    When I purchased a handgun two weeks ago,my FFl couldn’t get a clear line into the FBIs call center for 15 minutes.

    The scary thing is we ain’t seen nothing yet.Congress opens on Jan 3,so Round 2 of The Great Gun Rush may yet be upon us like a biblical plague. Once Bidens committee releases their findings Round 3 kicks off- assuming there’s any guns left to buy at that point.

  11. avataruncommon_sense says:

    Imagine what would happen if an executive order reduced staffing at the NICS to one part time employee who only worked one day (or even worse one-half day) a week. I hate to even bring that up. (I don’t want to give ideas to the wrong people.) More importantly, short of Congress passing a new law abolishing NICS, there really isn’t anything that anyone could do about it. Then what?

    • avatarST says:

      Im sure that thought’s occurred to Obama and Co.

      What stops them is the provision in the Brady Law which says if no conclusive result of a BG check happens after 72 hours, the FFL can release the weapon into the owner’s custody. There is no exception in the Brady Law for computer error or department understaffing. No result in 72 hours means the Feds lose the ability to stop the transaction.

      • avataruncommon_sense says:

        Ah, thank you for the clarification.

        So the feds could purposely understaff and create a de facto three day waiting period on almost all firearm purchases. Of course that would happen at the expense of not stopping actual criminals.

  12. avataruncommon_sense says:

    Wouldn’t it be funny if CBI simply used the information they receive for background checks and call the NICS for pass/fail?

    That would be typical government in action.

  13. avatarAharon says:

    “we’re probably bringing a few new gun owners into the fold, which is exactly what we need”

    I stopped by Wholesale Sports to buy ammo today. They were so busy, at times, that two very liberal lesbian gals (one of whom called herself a pacifist) asked me if I’d help since all the salesmen were busy. They wanted a shotgun for home defense and survival hunting, and they wanted one right away. Later on they also want a handgun for cc. Many people and some are new gun buyers are nervous and even scared with what is going on in America financially, economically, and politically. My point is simply that I’m observing lots of non-traditional publics or customer demographics buying guns and ammo.

  14. avatarChris Dumm says:

    Boy am I glad I don’t live the 80302 anymore! First they closed all the public shooting quarries along the Front Range, then they funneled all their FFL transfers through the tiny Colorado Bureau of Investigation database…

    Things are much better out west, but gun sales still busier than a whorehouse on Fat Tuesday. When I picked up my latest AR test gun (the afternoon after the Sandy Hook atrocity) there was no wait at all for the NICS system.

    This past Friday, Aharon and I grabbed a burger and stumbled across an (unfired!) Winchester 1894 in .357 Magnum for $600. Aharon jumped right on that shit, since pistol-caliber lever guns are so rare these days they might as well be made of an alloy of Unobtainium-219 and powdered unicorn horn. His NICS wait was a little under 60 minutes, which gave us time to chat with a fetching but tattoo-covered barista down the street while we waited.

    And yes, he will be posting a special ‘read it and weep’ review of the Winchester 1894. I heart full-octagon barrels…

  15. avatarJohn says:

    In the county I’m in, it’s whispered that the Sheriff is anti CCW. State law says the background check for permit has to be done in 90 days. When I went in to complete the app and get fingerprinted, they told me NOT to call, they would call me. Sure enough, they called on day 91. My son, in the next county, submitted his info the same day, and had his permit in 5 days.

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