The FBI is using an administrative function to circumvent Congress, curtail the Second Amendment and impede Americans' right to due process, according to a Midwestern lawmaker who has proposed legislation to end the practice.
"[The bill] requires them to give citizens who have been denied the right to purchase a firearm a reason, and it gives them an appeals process, so they can actually clear their name and exercise their Second Amendment rights," Rep. Tom Emmer, R-Minn., told the Washington Examiner.
Emmer in April proposed the Firearm Due Process Protection Act, which would define how the FBI is required to treat consumers who fail the National Instant Criminal Background Check System and are consequently denied the right to purchase a firearm.
Citing a backlog of work in January, the bureau indefinitely reassigned every analyst responsible for processing appeals in the NICS process, leaving about 7,100 applicants with no knowledge of when they could expect to hear back.
As a result, Emmer said, many of those applicants contacted his office. The proposal, which was filed on April 14, would require the FBI to make a determination on appeals within 60 days. If the agency fails to do so, aggrieved consumers would have the right to take the issue to court within 30 days. And if the FBI fails to prove individual ineligibility in court, the agency's ruling would be reversed.
The FBI will not provide consumers who fail the NICS check with a reason for failing, and according to Emmer, the bureau isn't much more forthcoming with lawmakers.
"They're not giving people reasons. They're not even giving Congress statistics on how many background checks are being denied or how many are being accepted," he said.
Reasons for being turned down could range from mismatched fingerprints to inaccurate criminal histories in the database. Though the FBI does not report clear data on the number of people who are rejected, statistics the agency provided in 2014 suggested that 5 percent of rejections were overturned on appeal. That means the number of consumers wrongfully barred from purchasing a firearm increases with each passing day.
"This isn't just for gun collectors or enthusiasts who might want to buy a specialized handgun or rifle ... These are even people who are buying a shotgun, who want to hunt ducks or geese with their kids," Emmer said. "The government right now is also violating our right to due process. If you're on one of these lists, you should be able to know the reason you're being denied."
Within two weeks of its introduction, the bill garnered 21 Republican cosponsors. Though already a sizable show of support for legislation authored by a freshman member, Emmer added that he had hope it would also obtain support from Democrats.
"All they need to understand is that while they might have a different perspective on the Second Amendment than I do, it is not about that, it's about constitutional due process. Citizens have to have due process and an opportunity to correct wrongs," Emmer said.