The liberals at Associated Press have a special reason to freak out over Black Friday: it’s a huge day for gun sales, and the background-checks system is severely tested. AP writer Matt Stroud even found space for the noting it’s a “perfect storm,” like the disastrous ship-sinking movie.
The volume of sales means some purchasers “beat the system,” meaning there are only three business days for a background check:
In the U.S., there are nine guns for every 10 people. Someone is killed with a firearm every 16 minutes. And every minute, gun shops make about 40 new requests for criminal background checks on people wanting weapons.
On Black Friday, the rush accelerates to nearly two checks a second, testing the limits of the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.
"We have a perfect storm coming," says Kimberly Del Greco, a manager in the FBI division that helps run the system, known as NICS.
Much of the responsibility for preventing criminals and the mentally ill from buying guns is shouldered by about 500 men and women who run the system from inside the FBI's criminal justice center, a gray office building with concrete walls and mirrored windows just outside Bridgeport, West Virginia.
Granted a rare glimpse into the inner workings of the NICS, The Associated Press was able to see first-hand why 512 gun sales a day effectively beat the system last year.
By federal law, NICS researchers must race against the clock: They have until the end of the third business day following an attempted firearm purchase to determine whether or not a buyer is eligible. After that, buyers can legally get their guns, whether or not the check was completed.
This clock ran out more than 186,000 times last year.
Data for background checks can be incomplete and varies by jurisdiction, and:
There are more than 48,000 gun retailers in the U.S., from Wal-Mart stores to local pawn shops. Store clerks can use the FBI's online E-Check System, which federal officials say is more efficient. But nearly half the checks are phoned in. Three call centers - in Kentucky, Texas, and Wheeling, W.Va. - take these calls from 8 a.m. to 1 a.m. every day but Christmas.
NICS did about 58,000 checks on a typical day last year. That surged to 145,000 on Black Friday 2013. They're bringing in 100 more workers than usual for the post-Thanksgiving rush this year.
The call centers have no access to privileged information about buyers' backgrounds, and make no decisions. They just type in their name, address, birthdate, Social Security Number and other information into the system. On Black Fridays, the work can be grueling: One woman took a call that lasted four hours when a dealer phoned in the maximum 99 checks.
"Rules had to be stretched," recalled Sam Demarco, her supervisor. "We can't transfer calls. Someone had to sit in her seat for her while she went to the bathroom."
AP didn’t note they reported Black Friday gun sales declined last year after post-Newtown background-check legislation failed in the Senate.
[HT: Vicki McKenna]