RB Gets His Gun.
I’ve shot guns before. It’s been a while since I shot one, around 13 years, and it was a 12 gauge shotgun, but I’m not afraid of guns. I just never got around to buying one for myself. Every time the left would try to leverage a tragedy into a gun ban of some kind, I’d get the urge to pull the trigger (pun intended) on a purchase, but the hysteria died down and deep down I knew the American people weren’t stupid enough to disarm themselves.
Then Obama was re-elected.
It pains me to say this, but my faith in the American people took a huge hit when they re-elected what can only be generously called a failed first term. If, as a country, we could be convinced that the most pressing issues of the day were free contraception and the other nonsense Team Obama based the campaign on, all bets were off. The majority of the country is, sadly, stupid.
So I decided it was time to buy a gun. I was going to research, take my time, evaluate options, pick a gun, and buy it. When the hysteria over Sandy Hook took hold, I moved up my time table. I knew any potential new gun control measures would take time to make it through Congress, etc. but I also knew that demand was steadily increasing and prices were going to be impacted significantly. From a personal economics standpoint, it was go time.
So I narrowed down my choices, checked them out, and decided to purchase a Glock 17 (a Gen 4, for those who want those details). A local gun dealer had a good price for one so I went to purchase it. That’s when I ran into problems. I live in Virginia. It’s a pretty gun-friendly state. We even run our own background check system instead of relying on the Federal NICS service (although a NICS search is still part of the Virginia process). I had visited the Virginia State Police website with all the information about what one needs to do to purchase a firearm in Virginia. I read through their “eligibility test” to make sure I was eligible to purchase a gun. I was good to go. I know my record. Nothing precluded me from purchasing a gun.
After a few minutes of waiting at the gun store, the guy who was helping me says the background check was in “delayed” status. He tells me this could be a few hours and could maybe be completed the next business day. Oh well. I gave the guy my phone number and told him to call me when it clears. I didn’t hear from the store that afternoon, or the next morning, so I called and asked what was up. They told me the status of my background check had moved from “delayed” to “in research” and that this could take a week to two weeks to complete. What. The. Hell?
I did some stupid stuff in college. But nothing, NOTHING, stupid enough to prevent me from purchasing a gun. I let a few days pass and then I called the shop again to see what was going on. No change. I asked them for a number I could call to see what information I could provide to help speed up the process. The gun store guy happily gave me the number. I called and a nice lady explained what was going on. There was a “hit” on my record that could not be quickly determined to be a disqualifying event. They had to get more information from the court where the “hit” came from. Alright, I thought. This won’t take long. They’ll contact the court, determine that this “hit” was a summary offense that carried a fine and no jail time, and everything would be good to go.
A few more days pass and I call again. No progress. I’m still “in research.” The entire time I assumed the delay was with the court the State Police was waiting to hear from, so I decided I would contact the court myself to get things moving. I called the clerk’s office of the county court where the infraction occurred. I was surprised by the fact that the actual clerk, not just someone in the office, answered the phone. I proceeded to explain what was going on and she told me that she hadn’t received any requests from the Virginia State Police or anyone else about me. Hmmm. Maybe I was calling the wrong court. I figured I could give a couple more days. At this point, it had been over a week (a week and two days, to be exact) since I went to buy the gun. I was also about to go on vacation, I could wait. I would have preferred not to have to even think about any of this on vacation, but I knew I would be cleared and all would be well.
While on vacation, I get a call from someone at the gun dealer shop. It wasn’t any of the guys I had spoken to before. He tells me that because it had been almost two weeks, he was going to rescind the sale. Now I was pissed. I stayed calm with the guy and eventually convinced him to give me until the end of the month to get this situation fixed. I’m a conservative. I understand where the guy was coming from. Demand was high and he was surely getting calls from other people looking to purchase the same gun I was purchasing and he could probably up his prices a little. I get it. I can’t blame a guy for responding to market pressure. But I was angry nonetheless. Government bureaucracy was causing people I didn’t even know to think there was something wrong with me – the guy even said he just wanted to keep his record as a dealer clean. Under Virginia law, after 10 business days a dealer can transfer a weapon and not be in violation of the section dealing with firearms sales. Maybe he thought I’d try to push that side of things, but I wasn’t going to. I wanted this to be “clean” all the way through. I told the guy I would get it fixed before the end of the month.
So I started making more calls. I was on vacation, for crying out loud! Anyway, I wound up calling three different courts. Pennsylvania’s jurisdictions are a bit screwy. There’s county courts and magisterial courts and depending on where and what you did, you went to different ones – and records were kept at different ones. I was finally able to determine that the information the Virginia State Police needed didn’t even exist anymore. Pennsylvania purged their records about 20 years ago. The “hit” on the federal database was basically a ghost of a record from Pennsylvania that no longer existed on paper or in a computer file. Call me crazy, but if the record is purged in Pennsylvania it should be purged on the federal level. But that’s a fight for a different day. For now, I just wanted to get this stuff cleared so I could take possession of my gun.
I made a formal request in writing to the magistrate’s office and they quickly turned around and provided me a letter stating the information no longer existed. I called the Virginia State Police and finally, after two and half weeks was able to talk to the extremely gracious lady – she was really nice, I was surprised by it – who was doing the research on my background check. I told her what I had obtained and she asked me to fax it to her. Everything should be good to go. And, by the end of business that day it was. Unfortunately, the portal for dealers to check on the status of background checks crashed and they weren’t able to confirm it.
Anyway, I got it.
What I learned through all of this is that it is very easy to see why government bureaucracy gets a bad rap. It deserves it. The people working at these bureaucracies can be the nicest people on earth, but they’re not allowed to think outside the box. They have their processes they must follow. And in my case, they hadn’t even started to make the inquiries! The really nice lady I spoke to admitted she was still working on December checks. They are clearly understaffed. Had I not taken the initiative and proactively obtained the information, I’d still be waiting and would probably have to start the process all over again because the dealer would have canceled my purchase.
While politicians and gun-grabbing pundits ramble on about universal background checks, etc. they should be focused on the current practices and making sure people following the rules (like me, despite the dumb crap I did 21 years ago) don’t get turned off by cumbersome bureaucracy and delays. This way, law enforcement can focus on the criminals who don’t bother playing by the rules. The current systems would work if they were properly administered. In my case, it would have all been avoided if the federal system accurately reflected my record in Pennsylvania – a record that no longer exists in Pennsylvania.
Fix the exchange of information between the states and federal authorities, and I might back some kind of universal background check thing. But if my case is any indication, implementing more background checks will bog down the system even more than it already is because the records are not in sync.
That’s my two cents. Now I can’t wait to get to the range.