Roll Callobtained previously unpublished data, which is not included in the FBI's annual public report on gun background checks, that showed the FBI has left hundreds of thousands of gun background checks unfinished for years, despite an internal 2015 report that flagged the problem and suggested solutions. The incomplete checks result from an 88-day deadline after which the FBI must purge the checks from its computers, even if they aren't done. Last year, for example, the agency processed 8.2 million checks, but 201,323 were purged.
Little has reportedly changed since the 2015 report — between 2014 and 2019, the FBI failed to complete over 1.1 million checks. The number even rose in 2016 and 2017 before dipping back down in 2018.
"We have no way of knowing how many of those records where a background check did not come back resulted in the sale of a gun to someone who was a prohibited purchaser," said Kris Brown, president of the gun control advocacy group Brady.
The 88-day deadline isn't the only one, either. There's also a three-business day window in which the FBI must complete a check before the dealer can follow through with the sale. Many retailers wait for the 88-day deadline, per Roll Call, but the FBI still determined that there were 3,960 cases last year in which the buyer shouldn't have been able to purchase if not for the three-day rule. In those cases, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives is tasked with retrieving the weapons. The shorter deadline is how Dylann Roof, who committed a mass shooting in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2015 was able to purchase his weapon. Read more at Roll Call. Tim O'Donnell