Biden’s FBI Boasts About its Young Adult Waiting Period

Gun Rights

When it comes to law-abiding adults ages 18-20, the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) should be renamed the Never Instant Criminal Background Check System. An article posted to the FBI’s website on March 25 shows how the agency uses the ill-named Bipartisan Safer Communities Act of 2022 (BSCA) to impose a waiting period on young adult gun buyers.

Under the BSCA, when a Federal Firearms Licensee (gun dealer or FFL) contacts NICS to run a background check on a purchaser under the age of 21, NICS is required to contact additional state and local government agencies in the prospective purchaser’s jurisdiction before approving the firearm transfer. This includes the state agency responsible for juvenile criminal justice records, the state custodian of mental health records, and the “local law enforcement agency of the jurisdiction in which the person resides.”

These queries take time. Further, unlike NICS, these state and local agencies are not necessarily designed or equipped to handle these types of requests in an instant or even timely fashion. In fact, as made clear in the U.S. Supreme Court case Printz v. U.S. (1997), the federal government cannot compel the states to participate in its gun control regime at all. Therefore, no law-abiding 18-20-year-old adult experiences an instant background check.

Prior to the enactment of the BSCA, in cases where the NICS system flagged an individual as possibly having a prohibiting record, the FBI had 3-business days to determine whether the person was in fact prohibited before the firearm transfer was allowed to proceed. In the case of young adults ages 18-20, the BSCA demands that NICS extend the 3-business day check period to 10 business days (two full weeks) if “cause exists to further investigate a possibly disqualifying juvenile record.” The requisite “cause” to prompt the 10-business day waiting period is not defined by the legislation.

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NRA-ILA warned gun owners and policymakers back in 2022 that the BSCA eliminated instant background checks for young adults and would be used by the Biden administration to create a waiting period regime. Despite the obvious implications of the bill, proponents of the BSCA claimed the gun control measure “does not create any mandatory waiting periods.”

According to the FBI, since the BSCA took effect over 200,000 young adults have been encumbered by the never-instant checks. The agency stated that the average waiting period for a law-abiding young adult to be cleared by the never-instant check is “about 4 days.”

Recall, the new under-21 background check procedure sends NICS on an open-ended fishing expedition for potentially prohibiting records – even when they don’t exist. Therefore, perversely, the system is quicker to deny gun purchasers – “about 2 days” – than to allow a lawful firearm transaction to proceed.

Aside from the waiting period, the BSCA background check scheme poses another threat to gun owners.

Federal law (18 USC 922) prohibits firearm possession by a person who “has been convicted in any court of, a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year.” Note the term “convicted.” Under a proper interpretation of federal law, many juvenile adjudications may not meet the criteria for a federal firearms prohibition.

As explained on a government website that describes the features of the juvenile justice system, the “process operates according to the premise that youth are fundamentally different from adults, both in terms of level of responsibility and potential for rehabilitation.” The juvenile system is typically more informal and less focused on procedural due process than the adult criminal justice system. Most states do not consider adjudications of delinquency in the same category as criminal convictions.

Of course, juvenile misbehavior varies in degrees. In most states, very serious behavior – homicides or assaults resulting in serious physical injury, for example – can lead to a juvenile being prosecuted in the adult criminal justice system, with all the usual consequences that implies.

Demanding federal bureaucrats delve into juvenile records that aren’t necessarily prohibiting under a proper interpretation of 18 USC 922 is an invitation to improperly delay or deny an individual’s Second Amendment rights.

As members of the political community, young adults ages 18-20 should have their right to keep and bear arms respected in the same manner as older adults. NRA-ILA will continue to work towards this goal.

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