Criminal Background Check System for Gun Buyers Has Potentially Deadly Flaws

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JOHNSTON, Iowa  --  In Iowa, permits to acquire and carry weapons are valid for five years from the date of issue.

"The federal law allows up to 60 months," said Tom Hudson, General Manager of CrossRoads Shooting Sports in Johnston. "So Iowa, much like several other states, maximize that allowance. And that's a federal thing, so it's nothing Iowa's really not doing that is circumventing or pushing the boundaries or anything on that. But, from a retailer's perspective, knowing that not all states are actively complying with the federal level request for records checks and all those things, and quite frankly, I don't know Iowa's mix in that, but let's assume that Iowa's only partially really complying, then our 60-month window is a bit of a farce."

Following the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, the White House said President Trump "is supportive of efforts to improve the federal background check system" for gun purchases. The National Instant Criminal Background Check System, or NICS, is what is used to determine whether someone is allowed to purchase a gun.

"It's going to go into a centralized database system that the FBI administers and curates, and that database is made up of data feeds from both the federal government and the state level of a variety of criminal, felonious, mental health in some cases or other background issues that causes you to be a prohibited person per the statue of purchasing a firearm," said Hudson, describing how NICS works.

However, the system only works properly if federal and state authorities report criminal history records to it.

"We rely on state reporting systems to accurately flag, if someone during that 60-month window, commits any type of anything that would be a red flag item against their permit," said Hudson. "And we rely on the Department of Public Safety and the other systems that are in place in the state of Iowa for those record systems to connect and talk to each other and make sure that's gonna happen."


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