Gun Sales High for the Holidays

By Brenda Flanagan

Customers crowded Ottomanelli’s Sporting Arms, jumping on big Black Friday sales — ammo at deep discounts. Six firearms sold here before noon.

“On a day like this, we’ll probably sell anywhere between 10 and 40 guns,” said Manager Paul Sconciafurno.

Sconciafurno explains every gun buyer gets entered into the computer for a federal NICS — National Instant Criminal Background Check. But all morning the website kept warning, “Due to the high volume of NICS transactions submitted, your transaction may not be processed today.”

Anthony Colandro owns the Gun for Hire shooting range. “This is Black Friday. We could wait three, four, five days before we get an approval,” he said. “Plus we hear now that the FBI and the ATF is overwhelmed with all of the gun sales that are going on.”

The FBI says it expects to get peppered by Black Friday background checks — almost two requests per second — and it can’t keep up. That’s a problem, because federal law requires a three-day turnaround, saying, “The seller is prohibited from transferring the firearm unless three business days have elapsed.” That means, after three days, the buyer can get his gun without that final background check.

Bill Risberg bought a handgun in Somerset County and waited six days.

“And I frankly didn’t care if I had to wait an extra two, three, four days. If that’s what the rule is, that’s what the rule is,” he said. When he was told after three days he could’ve gone and said the gun was legally his, he said, “I wasn’t aware of that. And frankly, I don’t think that’s a good idea.”

“I think they should have to complete the check. I think it’s good thing. I think it kind of keeps everything in line,” gun buyer Anthony Maneri said.

“We don’t want to put a gun on the street that’s not registered in the state of New Jersey, obviously,” Sconciafurno said.

Sconciafurno checks the piles of permits required to buy a gun, explains why that final FBI check’s required on top of the normal permit.

“If I give you a permit today and a week from now you commit a crime — you have a domestic violence, a DWI, something of that nature — now you went from being a good citizen to being a not-so-good citizen. So at that point, that’s why they recheck it,” he said.

He says his store owners would never release a gun without the final authorization. In New Jersey, background checks also get channeled through the State Police for a $15 fee before they go to the FBI. It’s another layer of bureaucracy and customers do not like to wait.

“They think you can just walk into a gun store and say, ‘I’ll take a pack of Chiclets and an AR-15 and a Glock-19’ and walk out the door,” said Colandro.

Gun owners told us the law releasing a purchased firearm after three days without that background check is a little like firing blanks — it makes a lot of noise, but it doesn’t hit the target.