Firearms Sales Explode — Background Checks Bogged Down

  • 2020-03-28, 08:20 AM
  • Editor
Firearms Sales Explode — Background Checks Bogged Down
By Rachel Dahl. —  When Merette Boyle went to buy a shotgun last week, she didn’t plan to stand in line at the Walmart gun counter for the entire day. Neither did she expect to leave empty handed and have to go back the next day for a nearly three-hour wait. Dave Greeley owns Silver Sage Firearms in Fallon and he didn’t expect to be on the phone trying to get a background check for a customer for the entire day either. Greeley said last week, that calls to the background check phone line were taking over three hours to be answered by a human. The phone system is automated to answer and hold callers in a queue until state public safety staff can answer. Gun store owners and customers alike, throughout Nevada, are increasingly frustrated as their ability to buy and sell guns has ground to a halt this past week. The bottleneck appears to be in the Department of Public Safety where the background checks to purchase a firearm are completed. The Records, Communication, and Compliance Division is the state office charged with completing the background checks necessary for a person to buy a gun in Nevada. That office is experience high demands due to the record number of firearms purchases being attempted during the past week since Governor Sisolak implemented emergency measures intended to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus throughout Nevada. Sisolak’s Declaration of Emergency Directive 003 outlines the guidelines for business activities, defining “non-essential” and “essential” businesses. Although many retail businesses have been required under the emergency order to shutter their doors for 30 days, Nevada Revised Statute 414.155, limits emergency powers when it comes to firearms, preventing the confiscation of a firearm as well as preventing the imposition of restrictions on the lawful possession, transfer, sale, carrying, storage, display or use of firearms and ammunition. By Wednesday, March 24th calls to the background check phone line were picked up by an automated system which then immediately hung up. By Thursday phone calls only resulted in a busy signal. Some smaller gun shops weren’t even trying to get through any more. Davy Stix tried to buy a gun at Frontier Liquor, a gun retailer in Fallon, and was told that the background check department was shut down. Congressman Mark Amodei and his staff have been contacted by several Nevadans who have not been able to get a background check or get their questions answered by the state department of Public Safety. But reports that the background checks have been shutdown have, as Mark Twain once said, “been greatly exaggerated.” Speaking of the current Governor Sisolak, Amodei said, “I’m not this administrations defender on the second amendment, but we have no reason to believe that public safety and DPS is in any way trying to frustrate the background process to keep people from completing their transactions.” In speaking with state officials, Amodei’s staff has learned that firearms purchases, and by extension requests for background checks, from week to week has increased twenty times. Amodei said it is his impression that the numbers have gone from just under 10,000 purchases in a week to nearly 200,000. “Quite frankly, that sounds to me like they are overwhelmed,” he said. “When you’re used to four figures a week and then you’re well into six figures in a week, that’s going to have an impact on operations.” Phone calls and messages left for the Department of Public Safety were answered with an email directing questions to a link on a the department website with a statement specific to the issue. According to that statement, the Point of Contact Firearms Program which conducts background checks for firearms transfers has been working diligently to process all requests. “The POC program has all available staff working overtime to assist in conducting the necessary research for each request. The call in line is open from 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. and the staff continues to work daily past the regular 6:00 p.m. close time to answer all calls on hold.” The records division website is clear that the system is not shut down and the POC operates seven days a week. The phone system holds only 30 calls at a time, and each caller has been limited to 20 background checks at time to allow other callers to get through. “The important thing,” said Amodei, “is they are not shut down. They are limping along, chipping away to try to get up to speed through the backlog.”       We need your support now more than ever — as our small business comunity is hit, so is our advertising support — if you are able to support local, independent news, now is the time to click here to contribute to The Fallon Post, so we can continue to bring you up-to-the-minute information. We are your non-profit (501c3) online news source for all things Fallon and appreciate all your support. Never miss the local news — read more on The Fallon Post home page.    

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