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Maryland State Police Faces Delays in Gun Background Checks, Gun Dealers Say

It's taking three times longer for background checks.

By Rashee Raj Kumar, Capital News Service

Want to buy a gun? Get in line.

Maryland State Police are taking three times longer than usual to finish background checks on new gun purchases, Maryland gun dealers said in interviews.

The process usually takes seven days, but several Maryland gun dealers said it was taking three weeks or more for the agency to complete the checks. They blamed the delay on a surge in gun sales sparked by debate over new gun control regulations proposed by President Barack Obama and Gov. Martin O’Malley.

“Right now a standard background check is running about three weeks and MSP is being more and more restrictive,” said Andrew Raymond, co-owner of Engage Armament in Rockville. “That’s making things much more difficult.”

All background checks for purchases of handguns and assault weapons from licensed gun dealers in Maryland go through the Maryland State Police.  Maryland State Police spokesperson Elena Russo said she could not say whether the agency was taking longer to process background checks.

“Certainly the workload has increased, but we’re still trying to stick to the seven days,” Russo said, adding that state police troopers from other divisions have been called in to help process the high volume of background checks.

Jeff Buffenmyer of Garrett County purchased a handgun on Jan. 3. He received a phone call 20 days later saying that his background check came back and that he could pick up his weapon. He said he does not blame state troopers for the backlog, but was nonetheless frustrated.

“It is disheartening to watch my brother walk into a gun shop (in West Virginia) and buy the same gun that I’m looking at and walk out the door with it that same day,” Buffenmyer, 46, said.

Michael Faith, marketing director at Hendershot's Sporting Goods in Hagerstown, said his customers have faced similar delays.

“We are dealing with two to three weeks for paperwork to come back from MSP,” he said. “Now we deal with a lot of frustrated customers because they don't understand the law.”

The rules surrounding state and federal background checks are complicated.

Customers who purchase regulated guns from Maryland gun dealers must pass both federal and state background checks before they can receive their weapon. Maryland State Police conduct the state background check, which involves querying 17 different criminal and mental health databases.  

The state police also process the federal background check by submitting information to the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check system. It generally takes less than a minute for the National Instant Criminal Background Check system to return a completed federal background check to the state police.

Stephen Fischer, a spokesperson for the FBI Criminal Justice Information Services Division, said the recent increase in gun sales has not slowed down the federal background check response time.

Under Maryland law, if the state police do not complete a background check within seven days, a gun dealer is technically allowed to turn the gun over to the customer.  Under federal law, however, the gun dealer could lose their federal firearms license if they release a gun without confirmation from the state police that the customer passed the federal background check.

Since the two background checks are intermingled in Maryland, gun buyers and gun dealers must wait until they get an answer from the state police on both background checks.

Even if gun dealers were legally allowed to release a gun before the background check was completed, most said in interviews that they would not do so.

“Even if dealers could transfer a gun before a MSP approval came in, most would not,” said Joe Wiczulis, owner of Sure Shot Firearms and Tactical Supply in Pasadena. “Dealers that I have spoken to are all in agreement that we do not want criminals to have guns. The last thing we want is to release a gun to someone, only to find out that they are prohibited.”

Matt January 30, 2013 at 12:24 AM
The law prohibits bringing guns of any kind into a school. It appears that criminal psychos do not care what the law says. Hmmm. So why prey tell would anyone think that new laws will magically be adhered to by the criminally insane? Do you think that Adam Lanza or anyone else would say "oh darn, this gun and magazine is illegal. I guess I'll go bird watching today instead going on a homicidal rampage"
Forlorn Hope January 30, 2013 at 07:24 AM
Frank, apparently the SEALE Academy (SouthEast Area Law Enforcement Academy) in Ohio did some research into response to active shooter/mass murder incidents. In incidents that were stopped, armed citizens stopped about 25% of them. As I recall, this was a study of over ninety active shooter events. I don't have the actual numbers. I haven't found an example of an armed citizen shooting several innocents responding to a mass murder situation. Granted, I'm not sure if the SEALE Academy study deals with movie theatres, but they do include commercial and educational establishments. I don't doubt that the terrible result you posit could happen or perhaps even has happened, but I can't find an example of it. Perhaps you have better information than I do. Can you cite an example?
Chris W January 30, 2013 at 12:30 PM
Many more Frank. You just don't like what does not fit your narrative. Days after the Colorado shooting a guy in Florida shot two punks trying to rob a business he was visiting.
Forlorn Hope January 30, 2013 at 05:11 PM
http://www.thetruthaboutguns.com/2010/07/robert-farago/armed-civilians-account-for-43-of-active-shooter-aborts/ Frank, no one denies that some people use guns in a reckless and criminal manner. Some people also use cars in a reckless and criminal manner, It would certainly save lives to put alcohol interlock devices in all cars (which has been recommended) and to put governors in cars to limit their speed to fifty-five or sixty miles per hour. "Common sense" and "reasonable" restrictions like that would certainly save more lives than gun control laws of any type. Somehow, apart from the interlock device, such restriction are not discussed. The MSN link doesn't mention the fate of Mr. Sailors. Assuming the information cited in the article is accurate, I imagine Mr. Sailors was arrested, prosecuted, and convicted of homicide. Rightly so. That would certainly serve as a cautionary tale for gun owners inclined to over-react to perceived threats. Since the Sailors case is a percieved home defense situation rather than a citizen response to an active shooter, I'd refer you to the Facebook page of "SWAT Magazine". It seems every few days "SWAT" posts a link to a news article about a citizen using a firearm in self-defense. Truth be told, the number surprised even me.
Andy Knaster March 05, 2013 at 10:23 PM
Elizabeth: You are certainly entitled to feel that way, but for those of us who are law abiding citizens and following the rules, I believe it is inappropriate to have the exercise of a constitutional right severely hindered to an inefficient system. I have a right to own the gun I purchased in January. Here it is March 5th, and I still don't have it. It may be two more weeks until I have it. I don't think you'd tolerate other constitutional right hindered in such a manner. For example, let's say that you and a group of people wanted to stage a protest rally against guns on public property. You have a constitutional right to freely assemble, but you have to get a permit to have such a rally. The idea of a permit is not a bad thing because it allows law enforcement to prepare to keep your group safe. You apply for the permit and it takes 45 days to get it. Would that be right?

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