FBI Background Check System Shuts Down on Black Friday due to Call Volume

Pretend for a moment that you’re the owner of a giant retail store in a populated, commercial area.  Pretend that it’s Black Friday and throngs of holiday shoppers are in your store looking to score big deals on coveted items.

You’ve done your homework.  You’ve spent the last several months preparing for this all-important day, the day that officially kick-starts the holiday shopping season.

You’ve stocked up on product and merchandize, you’ve doubled your staff, you’ve expanded your store hours, essentially you’ve done everything you could to ensure the day runs as smooth as possible so that you can maximize profit.

Now imagine that before every transaction is completed you have to call the government so that they may sanction the sale.  It’s standard protocol, you’re accustomed to doing it, but on this day, arguably the busiest shopping day of the year, for some reason, the government is not picking up the phone.

You have customers, in line, with gobs of cash in their hands wanting to buy stuff from you, but you can’t sell it to them because the government is not returning your call.  The customers grow irritable because of the long wait and end up leaving your store.  Some say that they’ll return later, but as you know, unlike wine, sales don’t get better with age.  That is to say, many will be spending their hard-earned money elsewhere.

Question, how would you feel in this situation?  Vexed? Angry?  Disgruntled? Annoyed?  (Some other synonym for pissed-off that I didn’t mention?)

Well, for insight on how it feels to be in this situation, one has to just ask some gun dealers in Maine (and in other parts of the country), who found themselves unable to access the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System, or NICS, for sustained periods of time on Black Friday.

At approximately 2:15 p.m., on Friday, FBI spokesperson Stephen G. Fischer Jr., released the following statement: “The NICS has experienced intermittent outages today due to high call volumes.”

Translation?

“It means we can’t sell no damn guns,” Rick Lozier, a manager at Van Raymond Outfitters in Brewer, told BDN Maine.

Lozier added that the downed system cost him at least half a dozen sales within the first few hours of the day.

“If we can’t call it in, we can’t sell a gun,” Lozier said. “It’s cost us some money.”

Ralph McLeod, who owns Buyers Guns in Holden, was also miffed about the situation.

“NICS is down, which means nobody is selling guns right now, on Black Friday,” McLeod, told BDN Maine at around noon on Friday.

Though, McLeod was optimistic that he’d be able to overcome the setback caused by the outages because of his online presence.

“The saving grace for me is I do a lot of online sales and online sales are not instant,” McLeod explained.

Yet, both McLeod and Lozier wondered why the government wasn’t more equipped to handle a high volume of calls when the NICS goes down.

“You would figure they would have a backup system,” McLeod said.

Indeed, one would think that there would be some contingency plan in place.  But, then again, this is the federal government we’re talking about.

On a more positive note, the fact that the NICS shut down due to activity means that many gun owners and future gun owners will be having a very merry Christmas (or other seasonal holiday in which gifts are exchanged) this year.

Photo Credit: BDN Maine

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