Background Checks Don’t Work. Why? Blame The Bureaucracy

In light of the recent terrorist attack in Orlando, one subject has dominated American political discourse: the subject of gun control.

One of the most common arguments made by advocates of gun control is that we need better background checks.

While in some cases that may be true, as loopholes do exist in current federal gun laws that allow criminals to obtain their weapons (such as dealer license exemptions for gun sellers who sell weapons for the purpose of buyers collecting them as hobbies), the goal of reducing gun violence through mandated background checks will be virtually impossible to achieve through legislation alone.

There is a second, much more serious problem that would need to be addressed prior to the passing of any new laws, and that is an incompetent bureaucracy.

Per the Daily Beast:

“…(Omar) Mateen had purchased a Sig Sauer .223 caliber assault rifle at a firearms shop near his Florida home, St. Lucie Gun Sales, on June 4 and then a Glock 17 at the same store on June 5. Mateen had returned to the store a third time on June 9 to buy magazines for his weapons. The store is a federally licensed firearms dealer. Under law, the seller would have had to notify the Federal Bureau of Investigation of Mateen’s purchase so that his name could be checked against the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, or NICS.

Mateen was actually listed on two federal watch lists, a U.S. official tells The Daily Beast: The Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment, which contains classified information, and the Terrorist Screening Database, which is the FBI’s central watchlist. The gun background check would have run Mateen’s name against that second database, but he had been removed from it in 2014. The sales were approved and early Sunday morning he used the weapons to fire round after round after round at defenseless people at the Pulse nightclub. Mateen left a third weapon, a revolver capable of firing only a mere six shots, in his van.

An FBI spokesman didn’t respond to a request for comment about whether the gun seller made the required check. However, it’s unlikely it would have raised any red flags.”

Assuming that the gun seller did make the required check, it would have been impossible for him or her to have received any information regarding terrorism-related investigations, as Mateen had been removed from the TSD, and the TIDE would have been inaccessible due to its possession of classified information.

This right here should be a red flag.

According to the National Counterterrorism Center:

“Each day analysts create and enhance TIDE records based on their review of nominations received. Every evening, TIDE analysts export a sensitive but unclassified subset of the data containing the terrorist identifiers to the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center (TSC) for use in the USG’s consolidated watchlist.”

In other words, there are two possibilities explaining the fact that the FBI did not keep investigating Mateen after 2014: either it ignored unclassified subsets of data regarding him that was forwarded by TIDE, or TIDE kept Mateen’s files as classified information. Either one of those possibilities reflects poorly on the state of our bureaucracy, and are problems that need to be remedied as soon as possible.

I’m not a government insider, so I have no proof as to why this breakdown in communication between different federal agencies has occurred, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it was just another instance of agency rivalry, which has been a defining factor in relations between federal agencies (particularly the FBI, the CIA, and the NSA) for decades.

This factor is perhaps best summed up in Mark Riebling’s book Wedge: The Secret War Between the FBI and CIA, which highlights examples of national traumas that could have turned out differently if cooperation had existed, from Pearl Harbor to the McCarthy investigations to the mishandling of Soviet spies and defectors to the JFK assassination to Watergate to 9/11.

This book was first published in 1994 (an extended edition was later published in 2002), but if the events of the last few days have proven anything, perhaps little, if anything at all, has changed regarding this matter over the last 22 years.

I have one question to ask: How many more people must die before we take action to reform our bureaucracy?

If we are to have gun laws, or any laws for that matter, we must make sure they are enforced properly before we take action to create new legislation.

It is not enough that the legislative branch works to keep us safe.

The executive branch must do its part as well.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in public affairs. You can write for us.

Cover Photo Credit: mrwynd/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

You Can Still Help The Victims Of The Orlando Shooting

On June 12th, 2016, a man entered a gay bar called Pulse and started firing, killing 49 people.
The response was almost immediate, with people stepping up to donate blood, money, and time to the cause.
You can still help even as the event falls farther out of the headlines.
There are various charities and blood donation centers, but what do they need now?
One response was from Pulse itself.
The club’s website was replaced with a page directing people to a PayPal set up for the employees, who aren’t working while the club is closed.
“For those of you wanting to help the staff, the Pulse Employee Recovery Fund provides assistance to employees who have been affected by this tragedy and will continue to have monetary needs during our time of recovery. All money goes directly to the Pulse employees to assist with their daily needs while they are out of work.” the page reads. Sara Brady, the spokesperson for Pulse, elaborated “…(The employees) can’t work because (the) club isn’t open. They are also emotionally traumatized which will impact their ability to get new jobs…they need to heal.”
Another way that people have been looking to help is with blood donations.
Shortly after the shooting, people were lining up at OneBlood buildings donate blood, food, and time.
Pat Michaels, spokesperson at OneBlood says that the best way that people can help is to schedule.
“Keeping the appointments are the thing that we’re asking people to do: to make the appointment and to keep the appointment going in the future,” Michaels said in an interview with RISE NEWS. “It does help us keep things even and not have a lot of people waiting for a long period of time. In the initial hours after the tragedy in Orlando, we had people standing in line for hours, waiting to donate blood.”
Calling ahead or scheduling an appointment online ensures that the process goes smoother and faster.
Michaels also asks that people continue to donate and volunteer regularly.
Blood has a short shelf life and needs to be replenished regularly.
“But certainly, the thing that we want people to do if you’re eligible to donate blood is to make the commitment to do this going forward,” Michaels said.
Cover Photo Credit: Governor Tom Wolf/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

You Can Donate To Support The Victims Of The Orlando Mass Shooting

The mass shooting in Orlando has taken at least 50 lives and over 50 more people are still fighting to survive in area hospitals.

You can make a difference.

Equality Florida, an LGBT civil rights organization has opened up a GoFundMe page to raise money to support the victims of the attack.

From the group:

“We are reeling from the tragic news that a gunman opened fire on the 2am capacity crowd at Pulse leaving 50 people dead and over 50 injured according to Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer.

We are heartbroken and angry that senseless violence has once again destroyed lives in our state and in our country.

Gay clubs hold a significant place in LGBTQ history. They were often the only safe gathering place and this horrific act strikes directly at our sense of safety. June commemorates our community standing up to anti-LGBTQ violence at the Stonewall Inn, the nightclub that has become the first LGBTQ site recognized as a national monument.

We have received a steady stream of emails and messages from those seeking to help or to make sense of the senseless. We make no assumptions on motive. We will await the details in tears of sadness and anger. We stand in solidarity and keep our thoughts on all whose lives have been lost or altered forever in this tragedy.”

As of 12:00 PM EST, over $21,000 has been raised out of a goal of $100,000.

Click here to donate.


Cover Photo Credit: Tim Evanson/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Scroll to top