Despite a federal shutdown that has stymied or completely halted the services provided by many government agencies, the FBI’s National Instant Check System (NICS) is conducting business as usual.
The National Rifle Association (NRA), along with the firearms industry’s primary trade organization, the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), are reporting the system is continuing to perform background checks and retail firearms sales have not been affected by the shutdown, which began October 1.
“Law enforcement activities are designated as essential services and do not shut down even if the Congress and President fail to agree on funding legislation. The NICS system will continue to operate, ” the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action website reported.
Federal law administering such shutdowns as a result of congressional budget stalemates separate federal workers into “essential” and “non-essential” categories, though these days the preferred term has taken a politically correct twist to “excepted” and “non-excepted.”
Essential services include public safety jobs, including those in law enforcement, emergency medical care and other “essential activities to the extent that they protect life and property.”
However, firearms-related business being conducted through another government agency has apparently been halted. Persons who have applied for a federal firearms license (FFL) through the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives (ATF) will likely not receive a response until the deadlock is resolved.
And yesterday, the NSSF reported the ATF Office of Enforcement Programs and Services, which includes the imports, firearms technology, NFA branches, the licensing center and firearms industry programs branch now processing marking variances, is effectively shut down, operating with minimal staff.
On the subject of NICS, the FBI announced in late September its NICS Section would extend hours of service on Friday, Nov. 29, 2013—otherwise known as Black Friday—for E-check users and state Point-of-Contact (POC) programs.
For the past 2 years, the number of background checks conducted on the day following Thanksgiving—historically the busiest shopping day of the year—has set new records.
A new single-day record for point-of-sale background checks was established on Black Friday, Nov. 23, 2012, when 154,873 were conducted. That total was nearly 20 percent more than the previous high of 129,166 set on Black Friday 2011.
The FBI said its action was in response to requests to bring NICS into service earlier on Black Friday to better accommodate typical business-hour extensions throughout the retail industry. Due to its history of record-breaking volume on that day, the FBI said it would bring the NICS in service starting at 4:30 a.m. EST. for NICS E-check users and for state POC programs. The NICS Contracted Call Centers will open, as normal, at 8 a.m. EST.