As you may know, our government is on the verge of shutting down because Congress and the president couldn’t come to terms on how to spend our tax dollars. More specifically, Congress failed to do its main job which is to pass a bill that funds the government.
The reason the government is shutting down? Obamacare.
The GOP-controlled House wants to defund portions of the sweeping health care law while the Democratically-controlled Senate is fighting to keep Obamacare, also known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, intact.
While Congress may strike a deal before the Oct. 1, 12:01 a.m., deadline, many believe it’s unlikely given how divided lawmakers are on this particular issue.
Obviously, this situation raises a lot of questions because we all rely on the government in one way or another, whether it’s for major entitlements like Social Security or minor perks like processing passports.
Of course, as gun owners and prospective gun buyers, many of us also depend on the government to conduct criminal background checks when we are purchasing firearms from a Federal Firearm Licensee or gun dealer.
The FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System or NICS is the database FFLs in 30 states, five U.S. territories and the District of Columbia use to determine whether a buyer is eligible to purchase a firearm.
As noted on the NICS website, upon completion of the required Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Form 4473, FFLs contact the NICS Section to request a background check with the descriptive information provided on the ATF Form 4473. The service is to be available 17 hours a day, seven days a week, including holidays (except for Christmas).
So, if the government closes up shop, will NICS remain online?
According to the National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action, NICS will remain up and running even if there is a government shutdown.
Last week the NRA-ILA reported, “The NICS system will continue to operate,” because “Law enforcement activities are designated as essential services and do not shut down even if the Congress and President fail to agree on funding legislation.”
Though, CNN, which ran an article entitled “Government shutdown: Get up to speed in 20 questions,” made it seem as though a government shutdown would slowdown the process. Question 14 read:
14. How will this affect me?
In ways big and small. The mail will continue to come. The military will continue to fight. And Social Security checks will continue to be paid.
But if you need a federal loan to buy a house, you’ll have to wait. If you want a gun permit or a passport, that won’t happen anytime soon.
In other words, perhaps there will be some delay. As the National Shooting Sports Foundation explains, NICS will be fully operational, but the ATF’s Office of Enforcement Programs and Services would effectively be shut down, operating with minimal staff. The EPS office informs other agencies and users about changes to rules and regulations regarding firearms sales, among other things.
Though, at this point, perhaps we’ll just have to wait and see how things play out. As the NRA-ILA also stated in its news release, “NRA-ILA will keep watch on NICS operations if there is a shutdown to alert our members if there is any impact, such as a slowdown in response times.”
If the government shuts down this Tuesday, and you happen to be out purchasing a firearm from an FFL or you are an FFL running background checks, keep an eye on the response time.