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First, a little context. Washington State is gearing up for a vote on a proposed “universal background check” law in this coming election cycle, and as we all know universal background check (“UBC”) laws suck (because of the unintended consequences mainly, not necessarily due to the intent of the law). As a way of ginning up support for the measure, the Seattle Times ran a piece a few days ago with a rather sensational title ‘Background check denials rise for would-be pistol buyers‘ trying to lead people to believe that more criminals are trying to buy guns and therefore we need new laws to protect us from evil. There are a couple of problems with that analysis. Or lack thereof . . .

From the article:

Ralph Fascitelli, board president of Seattle-based advocacy organization Washington CeaseFire, said he didn’t know why handguns would make up an increasing share of all background-check denials.

“I’d be a little bit puzzled on that one,” he said.

Allison Anderman, a staff attorney with the San Francisco-based Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, also couldn’t explain the trend.

“Our best guess is that more people are buying (and trying to buy) handguns instead of long guns for self-defense rather than hunting,” Anderman wrote in an email.

It’s no surprise that those in charge of the gun control crusade have absolutely no idea about what’s going on when it comes to guns. They are fueled by ideology and not facts, so taking a few minutes to actually understand the constitutionally protected activity that they are trying to ban would be way too much to ask.

The reason behind those numbers are plain to anyone who follows the gun business. There has been a massive spike in firearms sales over the last six years, and while most of the media attention has been placed on the long guns (AR-15 rifles and the like) all of the action in the market has been happening with handguns. Concealed carry handguns are the #1 firearm that people are looking to buy these days, something that our TTAG reader survey confirmed for the second year in a row. It’s a relatively new trend, fueled by new concealed carry-centric handguns like the S&W Shield, the SIG SAUER P938, and it’s why Remington introduced the star-crossed R51.

With the rising trend of people buying handguns, it’s no surprise that NICS denials are following the same trend. I take that back — it’s apparently a surprise for those who have no idea what’s going on in the firearms industry, namely the people in charge of gun control advocacy orgs. However, that same information can be very disconcerting for an uninformed voter. Someone who picks up the Seattle Times and reads that headline could rightly come away with the notion that criminals are getting more handguns and that they need to be stopped, thus forming or reinforcing a pro-UBC opinion mere weeks before the vote.

The reality of the situation — the fact that increased NICS denials are expected given the market conditions — doesn’t mean that criminals are actually getting more guns. Neither does it provide support for the idea that universal background checks are needed to stem the tide of illegal guns. Keep in mind that NICS denials are a mark of the system actually working and denying criminals access to firearms, and in no way correlates to the trade of illegal guns. In addition, firearms being bought and sold without background checks right now would continue to be bought and sold without background checks just as easily with the law passed as without it.

Gun control advocates are barking up the wrong tree. Their lack of understanding about how the firearms industry works and what’s going on with it right now is shockingly apparent, and yet they want to pass laws that directly impact that same industry. Nothing really new there, but it’s like having an accountant perform open heart surgery.

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  1. It takes a real dumb@$$ felon to go to a gun store and try to buy a gun since he should know that he is a prohibited person. I bet many of these denials are of [now] law abiding citizens who didn’t know they were prohibited because they committed a minor crime years ago in their misspent youth. Real felons get their guns from some place other than a store.

    • Yeh, I’d venture a significant portion of those denials are people with an lack of understanding of the background check system and a few others who were finding out for the first time that they are unqualified.
      I was just at the LGS and someone walked in to buy an 870, was completely surprised to hear about the background and 10 day wait and proceeded to walk out weaponless. Either new to CA or just plain tuned out.

      • Or, naively believed that that, “…shall not be infringed.”, thing that they heard about actually meant something in California.

    • Every time I fill out the paperwork for a new gun at a gun store and get to the part with all the disqualifying questions, I always ask the same question… “Do people actually ever answer “Yes” to these questions?”.

      It’s always met with a roll of the eyes from the person behind the counter, and an answer along the lines of “You would be surprised just how many…”

    • Not every denial is for a felon. A friend of mine didn’t realize a night in the psych ward of a hospital (feeling depressed during his divorce) disqualified him from buying a home defense gun. He started filling out the form and got to that line, and being the honest fellow he is, ‘fessed up.

      I’ve also known some folks who have been denied for name mix-ups — later resolved. I wonder if those are counted.

      • Was it an involuntary committal to a mental health facility, voluntary, or a referral by law enforcement? If police send someone to the hospital, it’s only for evaluation. Takes an actual doctor to make an official involuntary commitment, which hardly ever happens.

        • Voluntary. To this day, he’s not sure if he’s really disqualified. In Virginia, we have an additional background check form.

      • “I’ve also known some folks who have been denied for name mix-ups — later resolved. I wonder if those are counted.”

        YES, those are counted in all statistics regarding total numbers of NICS denials. We’ve had pieces on NICS denials in the past and there’s a huge, huge percentage of them that are mistakes and are “overturned” or otherwise corrected. But whether or not that happens doesn’t affect the stats for total denials at all.

        Identity mixups are the #1 cause of NICS denials, as far as I have seen. You have the same name and DOB as somebody else who is ineligible for whatever reason, so you get denied in error. This can be prevented by including your social security number on the 4473 or getting a unique identifier to use for this process. Or change your name to something really unique 😉

    • Agreed. Using gun grabber logic if a felon needed illegal drugs he would go to a pharmacy or if a false ID was needed he would go to the DMV.

    • Didn’t Washington State legallize pot? How many are answering “yes” on the marijuana question thinking it is perfectly ok since it is legal under state law and getting denied under federal?

    • The increase in denials can be attributed to mistakes in filling out the form, also. Increase in numbers of new purchasers has also flooded NICS well above its capacity, at least according to BATF spokesmen.

  2. Any “Dreamers” trying to acquire guns? CA loses its “single shot exemption” in Jan, that has been fueling a mini-surge.

  3. If the UBC bill passes, then chalk it up to the StockHolm Syndrome.

    Nothing like the oppressed to surrender their will/freedom to their abusers.

    • No, it’s pure vindictiveness. Most of the people voting for this don’t see gun rights as actual rights and especially not anything that would apply to them. On top of that, they blame gun owners for anything bad that has an association with guns.

      The fact that UBCs won’t really do anything to reduce crime, violence, or deaths is something they couldn’t care less about. It really is all about sticking it to gun owners.

  4. “Keep in mind that NICS denials are a mark of the system actually working and denying criminals access to firearms, and in no way correlates to the trade of illegal guns.”

    Also keep in mind that this is a government data base administered by a government agency, and that there are plenty of mistaken denials of honest citizens who have names similar to that of someone who is in the criminal database.

    Another reason to live in Idaho – if you have a CWL, you do not have to go through the NICS call BS, since the Idaho legislature figures that anyone who goes through the process of getting a CWL has already been checked. Strange how many leftist states are unable to make this kind of reasoned decision.

    • I was wondering that myself. Is this intial denials or final dinials. The first gun I bought after every five year security review under NICS came back with hold based on the fact that I just been the subject of a Federal investigation. These were generally clear up in a matter hours but once it took three days.

    • Getting a concealed carry license isn’t a one-and-done proposition with regard to background checks. The state continues to run checks on you on a monthly basis after you’ve been issued a license. The purpose is to ensure that you continue to be eligible.

      If after you originally recieved your license, you become a prohibited possessor, that monthly check will cross reference other databases and raise a red flag. In Texas, at least, they’ll send state troopers to retrieve that license.

  5. John Lott has discussed how some huge percentage of “denials” are false positives that are overturned on appeal.

    The point is that a lot of “denials” are not really “denials” so much as “false delays.” He’s talked a bit about totally broken the NICS system is in terms of actual effectiveness.

    • That’s been my experience behind the counter selling guns. Most are false positives. Someone who knows a refusal is coming I believe doesn’t bother to fill out the 4473.

  6. As usual, the anti civil rights crowd is always pushing against the constitutionally protected civil rights of citizens, be they ethnic or religious minorities, small government activists or firearms owners or just supporters of constitutional government.

  7. Big 3 day gun show this weekend. I think it’s the last biggie before elections.
    Should be a busy one.

  8. Years ago, my research for a college paper turned up a fascinating Congressional review of the NICS system. An Illinois State Police spokesperson said on record to Congress that his agency had a five year backlog on warrant info which had yet to be included in the NICS database. Turns out the ISP doesnt have the manpower to both patrol the state and process NICS data-and its one of the largest state police agencies in America.

    So, to answer a question posed above, yes a criminal really could lie on a 4473, purchase a weapon at a retail store, and walk out with an approval because the court or LE agency processing their crime hasn’t gotten around to sending their warrant to the NICS office. As such the system is worse then nothing:as nothing would save the taxpayers money.

  9. I have been denied twice on bogus reasons: “Illegal alien”. Made me laugh every time. On appeal was overturned. When they present the number for denials they fail to present the number of overturns. That will give a better image on what we’re dealing with.
    On my last denial I was wondering why the police wasn’t at my door the next day. I was “claiming” to be an US citizen and an alien trying to acquire a firearm. Both felonies if I’m not mistaken. Yet nothing happened. That should give you an idea about the security theater that the background checks are.

  10. “…fueled by new concealed carry-centric handguns like the S&W Shield, the SIG SAUER P938, and it’s why Remington introduced the star-crossed R51.”

    That’s not how markets work. The demand is fueling the CCCentric handguns. But your point stands – if you see a rise in sales, you can expect a rise in NICS checks, and appropriately a rise in denials. The AI is surely giving the media a collective ,”duh!” at the moment.

    • That’s the exact same thing I said to a felony hit and run victim today. It’s illegal to hit and run. It’s even illegal-er to hit and run causing injury. Yet it still happens. A lot. The suspects are roughly 90 % illegal and / or unlicensed. What’s next, a “tough new law” by a politician “brave enough” to take a stand against hit and run drivers ?

      There sure aren’t any CA politicians making much of a stand to protect the border, or enforce border laws.

      And since they didn’t get a license plate number, the chances of finding that driver are slim.

      • “90% illegal and/or unlicensed”
        In Oregon we will be voting on whether or not to grant drivers licenses to illegal aliens who in this country and state ILLEGALLY!
        I can’t believe this!
        We tell this person through our laws that it is unlawful to be in this country without proper documentation, and then we turn around and give him a drivers license! What kind of bull shit is this!
        If I should ever be convicted of a felony, and have my gun rights revoked, are they then going to give me the address of a website where I can order a gun online with no restrictions?

  11. Since judges give out restraining orders to women like homeowners give out candy corn to trick-or-treaters, I wouldn’t be surprised if NICS declines are on the rise.

    There are lots of ways for perfectly innocent people to be denied their rights.

    • Which is precisely why, when I moved out of the house about ten years ago and began divorce proceedings, I never came near the dwelling again until it sold and the estranged (now ex) wife requested I come get the few things I didn’t take with me. She and her lawyer would have happily filed for a restraining order while whispering
      “We think he’s depressed, and we know he has guns” in the judge’s shell-like.

      No kids-that made that part easier.

  12. This article is right that it’s no cause for panic; however, it also supports the universal background check law.

    Since it argues the system works, it should be expanded to all sales to further reduce avenues for prohibited persons buying guns.

  13. I wonder how many idiots with felony records are trying to buy guns in stores because they keep seeing reports about how easy it is. I have had to correct several people lately who think that there is no background check system at all.

  14. I got turned down one time due to the fact that someone else with the same name had a felony record , and heck I was a deputy when it happened , I had to search for the record of the person before I could be cleared to purchase the firearm , even though I gave my SSN on the form , the background check system is still having problems to this day , but that is like anything that the government gets involved with always screws up at one time or another . Be prepared and ready . Keep your powder dry .

  15. I don’t get the slam against the anti Allison. Befuddled? Sure, she did say her “best guess” and that it was related to purchases for self-defense, which isn’t exactly the same as “absolutely it’s because of growing purchases for concealed carry”, but it’s close enough.

    And really, Nick, you don’t have the complete facts to know exactly why handguns are a growing percentage of denials. There could be a dozen important factors. Your guess is as good as hers, especially when yours and hers are substantially the same guess.

    The headline for this article could just as easily have been “See? Even anti-gunners admit that those denied by NICS were only trying to purchase guns for self-defense, not to commit crimes.”

  16. So, a law they pushed for is “working” and they want another law on top of the one that is already “working”? Hmmm, starting to see a pattern in all this!

  17. The commercials for I-594 are slick but deliberately misleading

    1. The current “My mother was shot by her husband in a domestic violence” DOESN’T say he be barred from processing a gun.
    2. The two lawyers ad confesses that this won’t solve the problem.
    3. The “Former Lakewood officer” is from Colorado, not the city in Washington State. Policy kcal fact check found the claimed decrease in police officers killed was an average of 2 per year to one so far in 2014.
    4 The press release “1 in 10 ineligible” claim to have checked over 16,000 online gun ads. Truth is, they could only track 82 of the ads and, by their standards, found only 8 couldn’t have a gun. So 10% of 16,000 is 8? How about 0.04%?

    Still 594 has a 70% approval rating.

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