Audit Grapples With Gun Buys by Domestic Abusers

     (CN) — The FBI can do more to ensure that gun dealers have the domestic-violence records they need to evaluate potential buyers during background checks, a government audit found.
     While 89,000 guns were blocked for domestic violence-related reasons from 2006 to 2015, another 6,780 gun purchases were completed, according to report published Tuesday by the U.S. Government Accountability Office.
     The GAO attributes the gap to less-than-timely checks of the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.
     Indeed, most of the database checks for domestic-violence records that resulted in denials were completed before the firearm-transfer occurred.
     In situations where a transfer occurred before completion of the background check, the FBI sent Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms to retrieve the guns, according to the report.
     Auditors say most of the 50 states submit domestic-violence records to the FBI for such checks, but states can help expedite NICS checks by flagging prohibiting records.
     The trouble is: states have varying parameters about which records they believe should prohibit an individual from obtaining a firearm under federal law.
     “For example, in 2015, 22 states voluntarily participated in a program to identify criminal history records that prohibit individuals from obtaining firearms, which can include domestic violence records,” a highlights page attached to the report says.
     “FBI data also show that 47 states identified domestic violence protection orders that prohibit firearm purchases.”
     Because the information is not always found in the NICS database, the FBI sometimes took up to seven days to make a decision, according to the report.
     In those cases, the FBI was reaching out to state agencies for information.
     The gun purchase is sometimes finalized while this is occurring, since federal law allows firearm dealers to complete sales if the FBI has not made a proceed or denial determination within three business days.
     To solve this problem, the GAO recommended better cooperation between federal and state agencies.
     “The director of the FBI should monitor NICS check outcomes for specific categories of prohibited individuals to assess timeliness and provide this information to other Department of Justice entities for use in establishing priorities and tools to assist states in submitting more complete records for use during NICS checks,” the report says.
     Auditors could not calculate how many “prohibiting domestic violence records” states submitted to the FBI because states are not required to flag prohibiting records, and because “there is no automated process to disaggregate such records from other records checked by NICS,” according to the report.
     The GAO’s audit comes weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a firearms ban for convicted domestic abusers.Felons have long been barred from possessing guns, but many perpetrators of domestic violence are convicted only of misdemeanors.
     Studies show, however, that the crimes of misdemeanant domestic abusers often escalate in severity over time, and that the presence of a firearm increases the chances of a homicide.
     Congress sought to close this loophole in gun-control laws with Section 922(g)(9) of Title 18 – forbidding the ownership of firearm making it a crime for anyone convicted of “a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence.”
     While the 2014 decision U.S. v. Castleman affirmed application of the ban for intentional assault misdemeanor convictions, the Supreme Court considered this past term whether reckless assault should count as well.On June 27, the court agreed 6-2 this morning that it should.
     “A person who assaults another recklessly ‘uses’ force, no less than one who carries out that same action knowingly or intentionally,” Justice Elena Kagan wrote for the majority. “The relevant text thus supports prohibiting petitioners, and others with similar criminal records, from possessing firearms.”

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