Every time someone buys a gun from a licensed dealer they need to have a background check performed before they can walk out with their new shiny. Some states like Virginia run their own background check system. Others allow you to skip it altogether if you have the right paperwork (like Texas for CHL holders). But for everyone else, the FBI’s National Instant Check System is the mechanism that makes the pass/fail call. According to some reports, the call volume to the FBI’s NICS system was so high this past Friday that it actually overwhelmed the system’s capacity and made it unavailable . . .
From the Bangor Daily News:
Sometime early on Black Friday, the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System, or NICS, went down and stopped all gun sales, Bangor-area gun dealers said.
High call volumes caused “intermittent outages” in the system, an FBI spokesman confirmed Friday afternoon.
I work in network security for my day job, and I’ve seen this happen again and again for customers. But when it happens on the internet its called something else: a Distributed Denial of Service attack, or DDoS. This either happens when the 15 year olds over on 4chan get bored, or when a site is so popular that it can’t handle the traffic its generating. “Slashdotting” used to be the popular term before Reddit came about.
When you’re under a DDoS, whether from legitimate traffic or an attack, there are really only two options: shut everything down and wait for it to stop (turtling), or expand capacity to meet demand. It looks like the FBI opted for the former option.
“It means we can’t sell no damn guns,” Rick Lozier, a manager at Van Raymond Outfitters in Brewer, said at about 1:15 p.m.
“NICS is down, which means nobody is selling guns right now, on Black Friday,” said Ralph McLeod, owner of Buyers Guns in Holden.
“The message is they are going to be down for a few hours,” McLeod said at about noon Friday.
First things first, this isn’t the first time NICS has gone down due to overwhelming demand. Anytime there’s a bunch of big gun shows on the same weekend, NICS starts to get a little shaky. But given recent events and the uptick in gun sales in general, you’d think the FBI would have staffed the NICS division a little more heavily for Black Friday in particular.
This failure of the NICS system simply highlights a growing cause for concern, especially among those of us who are stamp collectors.
The ATF has been severely understaffed in their NFA division for years, which has caused a six month backlog for the investigators. That backlog means it takes a long-ass time to get anything approved. And it’s causing the burgeoning civilian silencer industry some considerable consternation. People seem to be willing to pay for silencers, but the wait is what’s keeping them from pulling the trigger on their purchase. Some people are even pointing at this perpetual under-staffing as a backdoor gun control measure, deterring people form buying or making NFA items.
Its entirely possible that NICS, a government program that is required by law for purchases from most gun stores, could be used to shut down or severely hinder legal firearms purchases. If there are no available NICS agents, then no one can buy a gun from a dealer at that time.
Even if there are no sinister motives behind the lack of staffing (which there probably isn’t) it sure makes buying guns rather difficult for law abiding citizens.
The silver lining to this cloud is that more NCIS checks indicates more gun purchases. We already knew that gun stores are doing land office business these days, and it looks like Black Friday was another banner day to be an FFL. Which kinda disproves that whole “guns are becoming less popular” thing.