Gun Purchase Audit Reveals Loopholes

     WASHINGTON (CN) — Although the FBI correctly denies gun ownership to dangerous individuals over 99 percent of the time, a recent audit of gun purchases in the U.S. has revealed persistent loopholes that continue to allow some guns to fall into the wrong hands.
     The Department of Justice report released through the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) this month, which covers gun purchases from 2008-2014, comes just as pleas for stricter control have strengthened in the wake of mass shootings plaguing nearly every region of the U.S.
     Angel Colon, a man who survived the Pulse nightclub shooting spree in Orlando after taking bullets in the hip, leg and back, held a press conference on Wednesday with advocates of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and Democratic senators Chuck Schumer of New York and Bob Casey of Pennsylvania.
     Colon beseeched Congress to pass legislation that would stop potentially violent individuals — especially suspected terrorists and domestic abusers — from buying guns.
     Colon’s pleas came just days after a shooting at the Cascade Mall in Burlington, Wash., killed five people.
     The OIG audit determined that while the bulk of the FBI’s quality-control processes successfully catch red flags in a gun purchaser’s background, certain crucial identifiers remain out of reach.
     According to the 66-page report, one of the three entities used as a cross-checking mechanism against the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) does not access a person’s record of protective orders or active warrants. That cache of inaccessible information is housed in a secure repository containing unsealed criminal justice records, the National Data Exchange (N-DEX).
     Dylann Roof, who murdered nine African Americans, including a pastor, at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C., last year could have been stopped if the FBI had utilized access to N-DEX, according to the report.
     “With timely and accurate data from local agencies, it could have prevented [Roof] from purchasing the gun he allegedly used,” the report stated.
     Only lack of approval for a regulation change from the bureau’s own Advisory Policy Board blocks the FBI’s access to the program, the Office of the Inspector General said.
     The document revealed that the FBI “processed more than 51 million NICS transactions from 2008 to 2014 and approved or denied about 50 million of them.”
     State authorities reviewed 68 million checks during the same timeframe.
     Of the transactions the FBI processed, the bureau denied only a little over 550,000 checks and proclaimed that its accuracy rate hovers between 99.3 and 99.8 percent.
     But the problem of dangerous missed checks remains. Peeking into a purchaser’s possible criminal background requires operations to coalesce across all levels of state and federal government, making data tracking increasingly difficult and time consuming.
     When comprehensive checks cannot be completed within the statutory 72-hour waiting period, unsafe purchases can slip through the cracks. In some cases, the report confirmed that agencies are unable to communicate necessary restrictions effectively during the purchaser’s waiting period. When a warning sign crops up after the initial 72 hours have already passed, the process is kicked over to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), which is tasked with retrieving the weapon.
     Interagency bickering over the validity of denials can also slow down the process.
     One disqualifier the agencies sometimes struggled to agree on was a potential buyer’s classification as a “fugitive from justice.” The ATF thought gun sales should only be denied to those who attempted to purchase a firearm in a state outside the one in which they were wanted for arrest, but the FBI considered those outside the county of their warrant to fit the fugitive-from-justice classification as well.
     The report revealed that in July 2008, the “state department’s Office of Legal Counsel provided informal advice [to the FBI] and the FBI requested formal reconsideration of that advice” about who should be considered a fugitive from justice.
     But the Office of Legal Counsel never responded to the bureau’s inquiry, according to the audit. The report says similar red tape has stymied roughly 50,000 “instances in which the ATF did not agree with the FBI’s denial determination. The ATF tracked these cases as FBI denials but because ATF did not agree with the determination, ATF did not attempt to recover the firearm in 2,183 instances in which a firearm was transferred.”
     The OIG’s recommendation for closing the current systemic loopholes include the expansion of its data collection systems, which ATF described as being “more user friendly, as well as allowing for more efficient auditing and tracking internal to the system.”
     The upgraded system will be implemented at the end of next year.

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