Five plaintiffs who have been refused guns or suppressors due to a stagnant background check appeal process are taking the federal government to court over the matter.
The men, who live in Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Mississippi and Texas, argue they were incorrectly refused a firearm through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System but the FBI hasn’t moved to process appeals since 2015, effectively making it impossible to lawfully purchase a gun, denying their Second Amendment rights. As such, they filed a lawsuit Tuesday in a Washington, D.C. federal court naming the FBI and U.S. Attorney General Jeff Session as defendants.
“The FBI needs to start processing these appeals timely,” one of the men’s attorneys, Stephen Stamboulieh, told Guns.com in an email. “If this was a voting issue the entire country would be up in arms, but since it’s just a Second Amendment issue no one cares.”
Some of the plaintiffs have been in limbo for years, and worse, they don’t know why. Daniel Umbert, a Florida man who tried to buy a suppressor last August is not prohibited from possessing a firearm under federal or state law but was denied in a letter that gave no specific reason.
Another man, who was charged with a crime in 1999 that was ultimately dismissed in 2011, was denied a rifle transfer last year but hasn’t heard anything about his appeal of that denial since last April.
A third, who had a previous felony conviction for receiving stolen property reclassified as a misdemeanor and has a current Indiana concealed carry permit, was suddenly denied a firearm transfer after passing several previous NICS checks.
A Mississippi man who was charged with possession of a fake ID and marijuana went on to have the convictions expunged from his record in 2008 but was disapproved earlier this year for a suppressor by the FBI.
The fifth plaintiff went to a pawnshop in Idaho in 2005 to reclaim a gun he had pawned only to be denied the transfer following a NICS check. Fast forward to this April and his appeal is still pending, with the FBI telling him that he had to research a pair of arrests in 1975 — one for writing on a public restroom and another for misdemeanor battery. The strangest part is that the man has passed numerous background checks in both California and Idaho since then and even held a federal firearms license for several years in the 1990s.
While the filing peers into the legal tea leaves and warns that public scrutiny will likely produce results that will speed up the men’s languishing appeals, the complaint urges the court to not let that derail the case. This is because in at least three previous NICS appeals cases brought by the same attorneys — that of Charles Norfleet Hughes, Gregory Ledet, and Robert Rowe — the plaintiffs quickly had their problem fixed by the FBI which closed their case.
“This essentially mooted those cases, yet it is apparent that the issues underlying the present action are evading review and are repeating day in and day out,” the filing says.
Alan Beck, another attorney on the case, told Guns.com on Tuesday the hope is that the more light they can shine on the issue, the better.
“This is a clear violation of our clients Second Amendment rights,” said Beck, who has seen at least 100 people contact him over sluggish NICS appeals in the past year. “My hope is that the Trump Administration becomes aware of the FBI conduct and corrects this policy. If not I expect the federal court to order them to comply with the U.S. Constitution.”