Background checks for firearms across the Mississippi Coast mirrored national trends on Black Friday, with area gun dealers reporting brisk business at a time of national concern over who’s qualified to buy a gun.
A record-setting 203,086 applications nationwide were sent to the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) on Friday, according to a Washington Post report.
The record number came two days after the FBI and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were directed to look at problems that allow people to pass a background check when they aren’t qualified to buy a gun.
Licensed federal firearms dealers on the Coast say they’re doing all they can to make sure guns don’t fall into the wrong hands. But they say there’s little they can do when arresting agencies don’t let the FBI know of convictions or other reasons that can disqualify a person from buying a gun.
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“When we call the FBI about a gun application, they will either tell us to proceed, delay or deny,” Jason Deere of Cook’s Gun Shop in D’Iberville said.
“The arresting agency is supposed to contact the FBI after a conviction that disqualifies a person. It may not always be done.”
Often, applicants forget that a misdemeanor domestic assault conviction or a felony drug arrest from years ago prohibits them from buying a gun, Deere said.
“There are people who did something stupid in their teens or 20s and now want to go out hunting with their kids,” Deere said.
“They’ve straightened out their lives, but didn’t think about trying to get an old conviction expunged.”
Chris Scott of Pawn Mart II in Pascagoula said screening applicants can save time because it takes an employee 15 minutes to go through the FBI’s application process.
Still, applications are sometimes denied, he said.
“And people will be dishonest,” Scott said.
The number one reason a gun purchase is denied is because of a felony conviction punishable by one or more years in prison, or a misdemeanor conviction punishable by two or more years, according to the FBI.
The number two and three reasons? Being a fugitive from justice or having a misdemeanor domestic violence conviction.
Other reasons that can disqualify you from buying a gun include a dishonorable discharge; denouncing the U.S.; being under an indictment; being deemed an unlawful user or addict of a controlled substance; or being in the U.S. without permission.
An involuntary mental health commitment also disqualifies you from buying a gun.
For example, retired serviceman Travis Coy Rayborn of Gautier was sentenced to prison in federal court in Gulfport in July 2016. He lied on background check applications when he bought a gun in Jackson County and tried to buy another at Keesler Air Force Base. Rayborn had been arrested on a third domestic assault arrest in Alabama and committed to a mental hospital in Alabama a year earlier.
Firearms dealers on the Coast say this is one their busiest times of the year.
“We’re in the middle of hunting season and Christmas is coming so people are looking for hunting rifles, shotguns and gifts,” Deere said.
“I expect we will remain busy through Christmas.”