All sides say they want better enforcement of current gun laws, but law enforcement officials are warning the budget cuts looming at the end of this week would be a major setback to those efforts — and could end up putting more guns in the hands of criminals.
The Obama administration has told Congress that every FBI employee would be furloughed for 14 workdays and nearly $60 million would be cut from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, putting a dent in the government’s ability to investigate and prosecute gun crimes — a top priority in the wake of the December school shootings in Connecticut.
The cuts would also hit the national instant criminal background check system (NICS) for gun purchases, leading to a backlog that could allow criminals to slip though the system, FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III wrote to Congress earlier this month.
When more than three days pass after a gun dealer enters a buyer’s information into the system and doesn’t get a response, that dealer can sell the gun without a final determination on the buyer’s criminal and/or mental health background — a potentially dangerous proposition, Mr. Mueller wrote.
“Delays in processing and adjudicating NICS requests increases the risk of firearms being transferred to a convicted felon or other prohibited person which, in turn, would have a significant detrimental effect on public and law enforcement safety at a time when the NICS workload is expanding,” the director said in his letter.