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Sunday, April 4, 2010

Background Checks Taking Longer

If you have tried to purchase a firearm in the Commonwealth in the last year, you have likely experienced the trend that today's Richmond Times Dispatch reported - background checks are taking longer. What used to take a matter of minutes in most cases now can take as much as several hours.

The State Police are blaming the delays on reduced staff and buget cuts:

Spokeswoman Corinne Geller said that since May 2009, the agency has lost 11 people from its 28-person staff at the Virginia Firearms Transaction Center, including two federally funded full-time workers who used to attend gun shows and conduct the computerized checks on-site.

Gun owners pay a $2.oo tax that goes to cover the cost of the instant background check. The tax has remained the same price since 1989. VSSA and other Virginia gun groups successfully defeated legislation in 2009 that would have increased the tax by 150%. The bill passed the Senate easily but thanks to our friends in the House of Delegates, the bill died an appropriate death. The patron of that legislation, Senator John Watkins wasn't very happy when the bill went down to defeat:

"...I couldn't even get it out of subcommittee," said Sen. John Watkins, R-Powhatan, who carried the 2009 legislation. "They want to have it both ways."

According to the State Police, an increase in the background check tax would enable them to reduce wait times and process more checks. They give as their reason for the delays the increase in the number of conditions under which someone can be disqualified from owning a firearm. With this, supposedly the checks are now more "labor-intensive", causing the prospective purchaser's information to be run through 13 different databases. The State Police said if one of the databases hits on a name, the application is automatically given what is called a "pending status" for the technician to do further research.

But at the same time, background checks have risen to record numbers, with 287,462 in 2009. When you multiply that by $2.00, that is a lot of money. But the state police say it is not enough.

VSSA continues to oppose a fee increase, as do other Virginia gun rights groups. We want to know why it takes $860,000, as the State Police claim, to run the background checks. If they were running them efficiently up until 2008, and they are collecting more in background check taxes from the increased sales that have occurred since 2008, something is not adding up.

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