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How gun bill from Andrew Clyde would change time requirements for background checks
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Handguns on display Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020, at Georgia Gun Store in Gainesville. - photo by Scott Rogers

Rep. Andrew Clyde, R-Athens, hopes his new gun legislation can speed up federal background checks to make the transfer of firearms from licensed dealers to buyers easier.

Clyde, owner of the gun store Clyde Armory in Athens, introduced House Resolution 1787 on March 11. The measure would speed up the waiting period for the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check on gun sales from three business days to three calendar days.

Prospective gun buyers are required under a permanent provision in the 1993 Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act to undergo a National Instant Criminal Background Check.

According to a statement from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the background check system is designed to return a definitive result within a matter of minutes, indicating whether the buyer is legally eligible to purchase a gun. If approved, a dealer with a Federal Firearms License may transfer the firearm to the prospective buyer.

But the system doesn’t always return a result in minutes -- or at all.

Mike Weeks, who operates Georgia Gun Store in Gainesville, said slow or inconsistent response times from the FBI regarding background checks place the burden on dealers to determine whether to sell the firearm to a prospective buyer.

“If they don’t respond to them by that transfer date it’s our discretion on whether to sell the person a firearm,” said Weeks. “Sometimes the department never responds to their request. Quite often, the FBI never gives us a response on the background check.”

Weeks said that without explicit instructions from the FBI to “approve or deny” a customer, the follow-up with potential buyers can be tricky.

“In some circumstances, it could be someone who had a speeding ticket or an incident that has some missing context, and the FBI may take a long time to get information collected,” he said. “So it’s a bit of a waiting game and also difficult for us to tell a customer why he hasn’t been approved when we don’t have that information either.”

The ATF notes that in a “small number of cases,” the system is unable to make an immediate determination as to whether a prospective buyer is eligible to buy a gun. 

Proponents of the bill believe that the three-day time constraint is necessary to incentivize federal law enforcement to investigate background checks in a timely manner.

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Andrew Clyde

Clyde in a recent media appearance said the bill is part of his 2020 campaign promise to “eliminate” the background check provisions under the Brady Act.

"I really think the Brady background check system is looking at it backwards," Clyde told Fox News. "We need to be looking at it from the point of the Second Amendment is an inalienable right."

The bill has 13 Republican co-sponsors, including Georgia representatives Rick Allen, R-Evans, Buddy Carter, R-Pooler, Barry Loudermilk, R-Cassville and Jody Hice, R-Greensboro.

Clyde represents Georgia’s 9th District, which includes Hall and 19 other northeast counties.

But Clyde’s bill isn’t the only measure in the U.S. House that addresses the regulation of firearms.

Two House bills passed on March 11 would tighten gun sales regulations and expand the scope of background checks.

Passing on a 227-203 vote, HR 8, titled the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2021, would expand background checks for all firearm sales or transfers in the country, including by sellers in private transactions.

According to statistics from the activist group Everytown for Gun Safety, in 2018, there were 34,314 Georgia ads on Armslist.com, an online firearms sale aggregator for gun sales, that would not currently require a background check.

The second bill, HR 1446, called the Enhanced Background Checks Act of 2021, would do the opposite of Clyde’s measure, extending the review period from three days to up to 20.

Gun control advocates refer to this as closing the Charleston loophole. Dylann Roof, a white supremacist who killed nine people at a historically black church in Charleston, S.C., in 2015, was able to purchase a handgun even though he would not have passed a background check, because the check was not completed within the three-business-day window.

HR 1146 passed narrowly, by a 218-210 vote. 

In his freshman year as a House member, Clyde has been a vocal challenger of these bills, which are now heading to the Senate.

“(HR 8) does nothing to address how violent criminals actually obtain firearms,” said Clyde in his floor remarks on March 10. “Nor does the bill make it hard for them to obtain firearms because criminals don’t follow the law.”

Clyde said that HR 8 would “criminalize common and necessary gun transfers.”

On March 8, Clyde said that HR 1448 further infringes on Second Amendment protections of “law-abiding citizens.”

Clyde has said that he wants to repeal the 1937 Pittman-Robertson Act which places an 11% excise tax on guns and ammunition and the 1934 National Firearms Act’s $200 excise tax on machine guns and sawed-off shotguns.

In Georgia, a buyer must be 18 years old to purchase rifles, shotguns and ammunition. Buyers looking to purchase handguns must be at least 21 years old.

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