Over a barrel

It’s been several years since I last stepped into a gun store, so I figured it might be a good time to look at the current background-check rules, courtesy of Ammo.com:

When you visit a gun store and attempt to purchase a firearm, you must complete a Firearm Transaction Record, or ATF Form 4473 — which requires the intended purchaser’s name, address, and birthdate. The form also requires a government-issued photo ID and asks questions regarding the individual’s appearance, including height and weight.

Once the form’s completed, the gun seller can either call the 1-800 number for NICS or use the online system to run the background check. In over 90 percent of the cases, the results are almost immediate, with the system either approving, delaying, or denying the purchase within minutes.

With an approval, the sale can immediately proceed as planned with you purchasing the firearm. If there is a delay, the NICS and FBI investigate the inquiry over the next three days. If the FFL does not hear anything within that time period or if a determination cannot be made, then the retailer can, but does not have to, continue with the firearm transfer. When this occurs, it’s often referred to as a “default proceed” sale.

When a denial is made, which occurs in only about 2 percent of background checks, the retailer is unable to sell or transfer the firearm to the individual in question. You must submit a request to the NICS to receive the reason for your denial, the most common of which is a history of a felony conviction.

The current rules date from 1998, or just after “The Cartridge Family” episode of The Simpsons aired:



  1. McGehee »

    10 March 2019 · 1:24 pm

    The procedure is slightly different in the event of a mail order purchase. The buyer has to designate an FFL holder in his town to receive the shipment, and when the buyer comes to pick it up said intermediary must then perform the 4473 operation as for an on-site purchaser.

    If a mail-order buyer fails the check, I assume the gun is returned to the shipper and the shipper then refunds the buyer’s money. I hope never to find out firsthand.

  2. CWG Mike »

    10 March 2019 · 5:07 pm

    The firearm must also be compliant with the laws of a purchasers state in the case of a long gun or a handgun. As a resident of NJ, I have to have a handgun shipped to an NJ FFL, who then verifies that I have my papers (please) with the blessing from on high and runs a background check before I can take poseesssion.

  3. Red 3215 »

    10 March 2019 · 8:49 pm

    You can also get a delay if you have had a security clearance. The clearance process generates an FBI file on you. When the NICS check hits that, it grounds out and goes to manual so someone can call the FBI and find out what they were “after” you for. When it turns out you worked for the Gov or a contractor and had a clearance, no problem. But, it can be a 3 to 24 hour delay in processing for your purchase.
    In the mean time, a documented mentally ill individual at Virginia Tech got approved for his purchases in spite of the NICS check because his mental evaluations were not made available to the system.
    Great system, eh?


  4. Rob O'Hara »

    10 March 2019 · 11:08 pm

    I wasn’t aware of everything that happened behind the scenes, but I can tell you that it’s quick enough that I was able to buy my first (and only) handgun along with a box of bullets during my one-hour lunch break.

  5. nightfly »

    11 March 2019 · 3:28 pm

    CWG could also add that NJ is a “may issue” state rather than “shall issue,” meaning that if the local gendarmes decide that you don’t have a good reason for owning a handgun, you don’t get no handgun. And you don’t get no reciprocity neither if you are a legal gun owner from another state visiting our fair domains.

    Sorry, infringement makes my grammar go all screwy.

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