On March 5, 2023, USA Today reported FBI data showing gun seizure orders surged during the years 2020 and 2021 surged to their highest levels since the adoption of the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) in 1998.
The gun seizure orders are issued when would-be gun purchaser is allowed to take possession of firearm, but the the FBI realizes after the fact that individual is barred from buying or possessing a firearm.
According to the information published by USA Today, over 6,300 gun seizure orders were issued in 2020 and 5,200 were sent in 2021.
The orders are sent to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, (ATF), when then, in turn, goes to seize the guns.
Stephen Morris, formerly with the FBI in a position where he “oversaw NICS operations,” believes the surge 2020/2021 surge in gun seizure orders is at least partly explainable by COVID.
Morris said, “The timing clearly suggests that COVID was a factor in this. There was an absence at these offices that play a role in the overall (background check) process. I can’t help but believe there was some serious inefficiencies.”
The NICS system a background check system for retail gun purchase that has been in place since 1998. Federal Firearms License holders (FFLs) are required to call the FBI and have a NICS checks conducted on every would-be gun buyer who is seeking to buy a new or used firearm.
The would-be buyer fills out a Form 4473, and the information on that form is shared with the FBI during the check while the FBI subsequently searches for a criminal history or other disqualifying factor. If no criminal history or other disqualifying factor is discovered the would-be buyer is allowed to take possession of the firearm. If sufficient criminal history or other factors are discovered, the would-be buyer is prohibited from taking possession, If the FBI believes more time is needed to conduct the background check the agency can take up to three business days to complete the check. If no criminal history or other disqualifying factor is discovered during the course of those three business days, the would-be purchaser is allowed to take possession of the firearm.
If the FBI discovers something after the would-be buyer takes possession, a gun seizure order is issued to the ATF.