Here’s something we all can agree on: When criminals attempt to illegally obtain firearms we must enforce the law by arresting and prosecuting them.
Five years before the murderous rampage in Odessa, Texas, the criminal attempted to illegally purchase a firearm from a federally licensed firearms retailer (FFL). He was denied, as he was already prohibited under existing federal law from buying or possessing a firearm because a court had determined he was dangerously mentally ill.
In the aftermath of this tragedy, we see the same, tired, knee-jerk reactions to ban certain types of popular firearms in response to the criminal acts of a madman. As we continue to point out – these policies fail to reach the goal we all have of safer communities.
The question that remains is why the criminal was not arrested and prosecuted when he attempted to illegally purchase a firearm. The FBI National Instant Criminal Background Check (NICS) system worked in this case, but after the appropriate denial was made, what happened next?
The National Shooting Sports Foundation, the trade association for the firearms and ammunition industry, has long called for enforcing our laws. Those who try to buy firearms, knowing they are a prohibited person, are breaking the law. And yet, they are rarely prosecuted for illegally lying on a federal form and claiming they are not prohibited.
No One Acted
In general, firearms-related crimes are being prosecuted far more often under President Trump’s administration than they were under President Obama’s. A quick look at the number of criminal cases in which a firearms offense was charged shows an increase of 36 percent in the number of cases filed in FY 2018 compared to FY 2016. In case that’s not dramatic enough, this represents roughly another 4,000 individuals prosecuted for breaking gun laws.
This increase is significant and laudable. But there’s more that can be done. That’s where recent proposals come in that would require NICS in the case of a denial to immediately notify ATF and local law enforcement entities.
There’s a gap in the system that needs to be closed to prevent another prohibited person from escaping prosecution for attempting to buy a gun with tragic results. The NSSF is urging Congress and the administration to enact legislation that would mandate immediate notification to ATF and local law enforcement whenever there is a NICS denial so that these criminals who are attempting to illegally obtain firearms can be arrested and prosecuted.
Larry Keane is SVP for Government and Public Affairs, Assistant Secretary and General Counsel at National Shooting Sports Foundation.