Retired LEO fails NICS for 1978 misdemeanor, files suit

A former law enforcement officer submitted information to the feds back in 1981 to ensure his status to possess firearms, but he is still being denied when he tries to buy one.

Robert Earl Rowe pled guilty to possession of a deadly weapon in San Bernardino, California, and was sentenced to six months of probation, but after just three was granted early discharge and withdrawal of his plea in August 1978. His crime was deemed a misdemeanor and didn’t stop him from becoming a probation officer in Delaware for 31 years. As a retired law enforcement officer, he has a Delaware concealed carry permit and, under a 2004 federal law, can carry in all 50 states.

However, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System, he is a prohibited possessor and was denied the ability to purchase a firearm from a dealer with a Federal Firearms License in October 2015.

Appealing his denial, he was informed that the “NICS Section is currently processing cases received in June 2015” inferring that he could expect a significant delay before his case came up for review. In reality, the delay could be much longer as the government has since ceased working on old appeals.

In January 2016, the NICS appeals website indicated the appeals services team was still processing paperwork received in June 2015. When Guns.com checked again six months later, the website showed it was processing appeal cases received in July 2015. Last month the agency removed appeals waiting period information from its website altogether.

With reasonable recourse denied, Rowe filed suit against the government in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia last week, citing violations of his Second Amendment rights. Included with his court documents is a notification that he received in 1981 from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives notifying him they had received his paperwork concerning his previous misdemeanor crime and that he had been relieved of any federal firearms prohibitions, pointing to an outstanding error in his file going back over three decades.

“Regardless of whether NICS is processing appeals or not, Plaintiff has a statutory right … to file this suit to force Defendant to correct its records and transfer the firearm,” notes the filing from Rowe’s attorney Stephen D. Stamboulieh who has brought several other NICS denial cases to the court.

“As the ‘appeals’ process with NICS slows to a halt, people are left with no choice but to vindicate their rights in court,” observed Stamboulieh in a similar case.

Rowe is seeking to correct his record and be issued a Unique Personal Identification Number so that he can conduct firearms transfers without delay as well as attorney’s fees and costs.

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