ATF to Seize 4,000 Guns from People who Failed Background Checks

The FBI issued more than 4,000 requests last year for agents from the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives to retrieve guns from prohibited buyers.

These requests were made because the background check system did not prevent these people with criminal records or mental health issues from purchasing weapons.

According to FBI records, this is the largest number of such retrieval requests in 10 years, which is an especially striking statistic after revelations that an error in the background check system allowed a troubled Air Force veteran to buy a rifle later used to kill 26 people at a Texas church last month. 

While the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) vets millions of gun purchase transactions every year, the thousands of gun seizure requests highlight persistent problems in a system where analysts must complete background checks within three days of the proposed purchase.

If the background check is not complete within the 72-hour time limit, federal law allows the sale to go forward, and then ATF agents are asked to retrieve the guns if the FBI later finds these sales should have been denied. 

"These are people who shouldn't have weapons in the first place, and it just takes one to do something that could have tragic consequences," said David Chipman, a former ATF official who helped oversee the firearm retrieval program. "You don't want ATF to stand for 'after the fact.'"

It’s not clear how many gun seizure requests agents successfully executed last year or how many weapons were ultimately recovered. Since multiple firearms can be purchased in a single transaction, the actual number of guns that should have been banned could be even higher than predicted.

Posted in General News

Tags: FBI, ATF, purchasing a gun

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