Pandemic Exposes Dangers of So-Called “Universal” Background Checks

Just The Facts NRA
Universal background checks can sound good on paper to the uninformed but are detrimental to the Second Amendment.

U.S.A. -( As the COVID-19 pandemic makes its way across the country, Americans are getting an important lesson in the dangers of placing a prior restraint on the exercise of a constitutional right. The vast increase in those seeking protection in the Second Amendment during this period of uncertainty has caused the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) and Point of Contact State background check systems to buckle. Worse, some jurisdictions that have criminalized the private transfer of firearms have also shut down access to gun stores or their state criminal background check system. This lethal combination of misguided policies has made it impossible for millions of Americans to acquire, or even borrow or lend, firearms during this moment of crisis.

In peddling so-called “universal” background checks, anti-gun activists and politicians claim such checks are instant, and therefore don’t encumber Second Amendment rights. For instance, according to Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) firearm background checks take about 90 seconds.

Gun owners know that for many law-abiding individuals NICS checks, let alone point of contact state checks, have never been instant. In the 2018 NICS Operations Report, ​the FBI noted that 30 percent of all NICS checks were not “instant determinations.” The document explained that 20 percent of all checks required some additional analysis to complete, while 10 percent were delayed for further research. The problem overwhelmingly burdened law-abiding gun buyers, as only 1.21 percent of all checks resulted in a denial.

The simple facts outlined in the annual NICS Operations Report have not been enough to shame gun control advocates into dropping their “background checks are instant” talking point. However, the recent experience with firearms background checks during the COVID-19 outbreak should be enough to put their false claim to rest for good.

On March 17, the National Shooting Sports Foundation summarized the state of NICS in a message to federal firearms licensees (gun dealers). NSSF explained,

According to NICS, there are delays in the system due to an astronomical volume of transactions over the last several days. While much of the NICS System is automated and yields an immediate “proceed” or “deny” determination, transactions that result in a delayed status require the work of NICS examiners to investigate whether the transaction should be approved or not. With daily volumes roughly double that of last year, the NICS team is unable to begin investigations on all delays within three business days, creating a backlog in the delayed checks.

Colorado, a state that criminalized private firearm transfers in 2013, is a Point of Contact State where the Colorado Bureau of Investigation is tasked with performing firearms background checks. According to the CBI, as of March 24, background checks were taking four days. According to a report from the Reno Gazette, in Nevada, a state that criminalized private firearm transfers in 2019, “the onslaught of background check requests has made it virtually impossible to get through on the state’s Point of Contact Firearms Unit phone line.​”​ Due to these states’ prohibitions on private firearms transfers, the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding residents are at the mercy of an overwhelmed government bureaucracy.

The situation is even graver in jurisdictions that, through a combination of laws that criminalize the private transfer of firearms and virus-induced shutdowns, have foreclosed the Second Amendment right to acquire a firearm.

On March 21, the New Jersey State Police issued the following message to Federal Firearms Licensees.

On Saturday, March 21, 2020, Governor Phil Murphy announced he is putting New Jersey in lockdown to combat the spread of coronavirus. Per Executive Order 107, he is ordering the residents of New Jersey to stay home, directing all non-essential retail businesses closed to the public. At this time, the order includes New Jersey Firearms State Licensed Dealers. The New Jersey State Police NICS Unit is directing the vendor of the NICS Online Application (NICUSA) to turn off the NICS Online Services for submitting NICS transactions by eliminating the “Request Form” button, effective 9:00 pm EST, Saturday, March 21, 2020. You will still have the ability to view the message board and the status of previously submitted transactions. This “Request Form” feature will remain off until further order by Governor Murphy.

New Jersey is a Point of Contact state where the New Jersey State Police are tasked with performing all firearm background checks.

In order to acquire a rifle or a shotgun in New Jersey a prospective owner must obtain a Firearms Purchase Identification Card. N.J.S.A. 2C:58-3d. requires that a background check be conducted before an FPIC is issued.

Likewise, in order to acquire a handgun, a prospective owner must obtain a Permit to Purchase a Handgun (PPH). The PPH is also issued pursuant to a background check.

Up until 2018, an FPIC or PPH holder could acquire a firearm from another private individual without further government interference. The logic being that the FPIC or PPH holder had already been thoroughly vetted by the government.

However, on June 13, 2018, Gov. Murphy signed A2757. This legislation added a background check requirement for every firearm transfer on top of the existing licensing requirements.

Therefore, with the March 21 change in state police procedure, New Jerseyans are not able to acquire firearms.

The situation is similar in Washington. In 2014, the state has criminalized the private transfer of firearms. RCWA 9.41.113​ requires that parties to a firearms transfer “shall complete the sale or transfer through a licensed dealer” pursuant to a background check.

On March 23, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) issued an order closing all “non-essential” businesses due to the threat of the Wuhan virus. The shutdown included firearms dealers. The governor’s closure order, coupled with existing Washington background check law has made it so Washingtonians cannot acquire or transfer firearms during this crisis.

It should be noted that New Jersey and Washington’s laws do not just require background checks on all firearm sales, but also on other types of firearm transfers. Under both state’s laws, a gun owner could not lend their friend or neighbor a firearm for protection during this time of crisis without first conducting a background check.

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the dangers inherent in laws that require government permission in order to exercise a constitutional right. Such laws make law-abiding Americans dependent upon the government’s ability and willingness to grant such permission – something many governments have been unable to ensure. This crisis has shown that Americans cannot trust the government to act as a gatekeeper on their fundamental rights. Therefore, Americans must jealously guard their right to privately transfer firearms without government interference.​

National Rifle Association Institute For Legislative Action (NRA-ILA)


Established in 1975, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) is the “lobbying” arm of the National Rifle Association of America. ILA is responsible for preserving the right of all law-abiding individuals in the legislative, political, and legal arenas, to purchase, possess and use firearms for legitimate purposes as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Visit:

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Enough to make one wonder how many honest people are willing to give up being law abiding? Article does not say whether those states have exemptions for family. If not, I’d certainly ignore those laws as necessary.

Those who push these laws are willfully ignoring the fact that when people are pushed to break the law, they tend to start ignoring other laws as well. By writing laws unacceptable to so many, they will make our country lawless . Guess that’s part of the answer – the middle left is attempting to satisfy the far left cries for anarchy.


Being of simple mind, I am puzzled. What is it about “..the right to bear arms shall not be infringed” do these state lawmakers not understand ? And why doesn’t the DOJ take these communist lawmakers to court for violating the people’s rights as defined in the 2nd Amendment. The DOJ acts upon the states that violate every other federal law, but seems to forget that the 2nd Amendment exists. In that the right to bear arms is a Civil Right, the 2nd Amendment should be on equal footing as laws against race or sex discrimination, Yet it is not,… Read more »


My thoughts exactly.
The 2nd Amendment doesn’t say, A privilege to bear arms.


it is unconscionable for legislators of either party to enact these illegal laws that clearly violate the Constitution and Bill of Rights. they swore an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution and Bill of Rights. it is our job to ensure they do just that by voting them out of office if they do not honor their oath. in times like this, they only create felons out of law-abiding citizens who only care for the safety of people they care for. leftists claim they care for the dis-enfranchised, the poor, the marginalized, but that is who is really being… Read more »

Ed in North Texas

“… the recent experience with firearms background checks during the COVID-19 outbreak should be enough to put their false claim to rest for good.” Always nice to see an optimist, even when the probability of being correct is Slim and none and Slim just left town.I could be mistaken, but I think history is on my side in thinking the gun grabbers will never give up on even one of what we know are their lies. C.S. Lewis said it best: “Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It… Read more »

Arizona Don

Universal background checks. We already have background checks which do little to no good whatsoever. Although they do make you waste about a half hour or so when you purchase a gun just filling out the paperwork. Some people may get turned down for buying a gun but very few are ever followed through on and hardly any are pursued as to legality. Because if investigated it is usually found they should NOT have been turned down. Less then one percent of those turned down to purchase a gun are ever investigated to see why the refusal was made or… Read more »


Soooo, NRA, who “compromised” us all into the current NICS system, is now warning us about… the current NICS system?


I remember what really happened. Diane Feinstein almost had the votes to disarm U. S. and the “compromise” is certainly debatable, I think that the background checks was inevitable. but it should only be a background check.

Ej harbet

Ironic! That


Interesting. The corona Virus travelled entire world from Wuhan but it did not reach Beijing and Shanghai… can anybody put light on that? Looks So Logical….After all Chinese Stock Market didn’t crash….American and European Markets did…. Destroy other markets and be ready to capture them in every way How to dominate the world quickly? THE GREAT CHINESE STAGE 1. Create a virus and the antidote. 2. Spread the virus. 3. A demonstration of efficiency, building hospitals in a few days. After all, you were already prepared, with the projects, ordering the equipment, hiring the labor, the water and sewage network,… Read more »


The left will never cease to try and disarm Americans. They will use any method possible and any crisis to divert attention.


They’ve been trying for over a hundred years most people do not realize that. Mostly on the state level in places like NY, NJ. I’ve been around for long enough to realize that back in the 1970’s it really was looking like we would loose most of our gun rights, but thankfully in those days we still had politicians who said they believed in the Second Amendment without any “but.” When the GCA 68 became law we had originations such as Citizens’ Committee for The Right to Keep and Bear Arms (SAF), Gun Owners of America, and NRA ILA, mobilize… Read more »


All the gun laws that infringe on our 2nd Amendment Rights have never been put to the test like this crisis we are currently facing. Jails releasing criminals early, police not arresting those that break the law and restricting citizens from protecting themselves. It is very clear that no gun law ever passed has kept all Americans safe, despite all their pandering. There is no measurement of how restrictive a law is a until it is tested. The public is now getting a taste of how difficult it is to exercise their right to own a gun. How easily we… Read more »