Friday, March 16, 2018

Bass Pro/Cabela's indefinitely extend NICS 3-day default background check allowance

Bass Pro Shops appears to have quietly yielded to a request presented to it by 13 Democratic U.S. Senators regarding background checks on prospective firearms buyers.

The 13 senators are all largely regarded as being proponents of strict gun control laws with some of them promoting a ban on the sale of AR-platform rifles, rifle and handgun magazines with capacities greater than 10 rounds, and enhanced background checks.

Related to that last item, in 2015 the 13 senators sent a joint communique to Bass Pro Shops. These elected officials asked the outdoors retailer and Internet seller of firearms, ammunition and other outdoors wares to forego kicking in the federal government’s so-called “three-day default to proceed” background check provision.

This provision remains one of the few existing components of the Brady Violence Protection Act of 1993. It states that if the FBI does not complete its National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) protocols within a three-day period that a federally licensed firearms dealer may proceed with the sale.

However, a FFL dealer is not required to do so and may if it so chooses wait until it gets what amounts to a go/no go notification from the FBI.

The default provision was established as a compromise to ensure that the federal government conducts background checks in an expeditious manner. This was done so that such entities would be prevented from essentially achieving a pocket veto of firearms sales.

The FBI states that 91 percent of its NICS calls are completed within one day, and says also on its web site that its West Virginia-based NICS Section has an average wait and processing time of “446.3 seconds.” Also, the agency’s web site says it has fielded more than 230 million checks based upon the federal firearms application to-buy form, having rejected more than 1.3 million applications.

Still, even with a largely quick application go/no-go turn-around, Bass Pro Shop says it will wait until NICS clearance is actually received. This information is based upon a check made via the retailer’s Internet electronic customer “chat services.” The Q&A service confirmed that the retailer will “hold the order for 45 days at the store” before returning the firearm to inventory should Bass Pro Shops fail to receive an okay from the FBI’s NICS program.

A Bass Pro Shops spokesman did not return telephone calls requesting further formal input.

Likewise, Cabela’s – which Bass Pro Shops agreed to purchase for $5.5 billion in 2016 – has a similar policy. A sales representative at Cabela’s Avon Lake store said the operation there will not release for sale any firearm until it also receives a NICS okay-to-proceed notification.

Few people would argue that NICS is flawed. That is why a bi-partisan legislative effort is underway to enhance the program. It is dubbed as the “Fix NICS Act of 2017” bill and is now before the U.S. Senate. This adjustment seeks better accountability in ensuring that all federal agencies report persons convicted of crimes which would legally prohibit them from buying or possessing a firearm.

This prohibition is called a “disability” and came to the forefront during a couple of recent instances whereby a federal agency failed to include into systems that NICS could access the names of people ineligible to buy a firearm.

In another related matter, the on-line “Business Insider” magazine - and other media venues - reported earlier this month that Bass Pro Shops was being lobbied via social media and by telephone to stop selling AR-platform rifle through its outlets and its Cabela’s affiliates.

These requests came after Dick’s Sporting Goods said it would no longer sell AR-platform rifles through its chain of Field & Stream outdoors-supply stores. This, following the murder of 17 high school students by a killer who allegedly used such a firearm.

However, a check of both Bass Pro Shops’ and Cabela’s web sites showed that each retailer still had AR-platform rifles for sale.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

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