Month: June 2018

Background Checks

Background Checks

Background Checks: A Function of Checks and Balances

I believe it safe to say that no reasonable person wants firearms in the hands of those who would use them to intentionally commit crime. Background checks at the point of sale is a minimally intrusive method to prevent the possession of firearms by those who already demonstrated a propensity to commit crime. Under Federal law it is unlawful to transfer a firearm to any person prohibited from possessing one (18 USC 922 (d)); this includes not only dealer sales, but also includes transfers between private individuals.

People Who Cannot Receive a Firearm

People prohibited from owning or possessing a firearm include anyone who is:

  • under indictment for, or has been convicted in any court of, a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year
  • a fugitive from justice
  • an unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance
  • adjudicated as a mental defective or has been committed to any mental institution
  • an alien who—
    • is illegally or unlawfully in the United States
    • has been admitted to the United States under a nonimmigrant visa (with specific exceptions)
  • discharged from the Armed Forces under dishonorable conditions
  • a citizen of the United States who has renounced his citizenship
  • subject to a court order that restrains such person
    • from harassing, stalking, or threatening an intimate partner or child of an intimate partner,
    • engaging in other conduct that would place an intimate partner in reasonable fear of bodily injury to the partner or child,
    • or by its terms explicitly prohibits the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against such intimate  partner or child that would reasonably be expected to cause bodily injury
  • convicted in any court of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence

As part of the balances to help ensure those with criminal intent are denied access to firearms, and to comply with Federal law, federally licensed dealers will process your name through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) to verify you are not someone prohibited from owning or possessing a firearm.

Purchasing a Firearm

There are certain steps you must go through to purchase a firearm. Knowing them in advance may save some time, as well as avoid potential embarrassment. These steps include:

  • Verifying your age (at least 18 for long guns, and 21 for handguns)
  • Providing identification
  • Completing ATF From 4473
  • Undergoing a NICS check

Also, North Carolina General Statues require that you receive a copy of NC G.S. 14-315.1, which directs the proper storage of firearms where minors are present in a household, if you purchase the firearm from a retail or wholesale store. In many stores, you will be required to sign a document verifying you received it.

Handgun Sales in North Carolina

Handgun transfers in North Carolina require an additional step (NC G.S. 14-402). Before a handgun can be transferred in North Carolina, the recipient must first obtain “A Permit to Purchase/Receive A Handgun” from the sheriff of the county in which the recipient resides, or the recipient must possess a valid North Carolina concealed carry handgun permit. This also applies to transfers between private individuals!

Be aware, there are licensed dealers in North Carolina who will not permit potential buyers of handguns to personally handle one from their display cases without showing the salesperson a permit to purchase, or a concealed carry handgun permit.

Online Sales

If you purchase a firearm online, the seller will not ship the firearm directly to your door. Instead, it will be shipped to a Federal Firearm License (FFL) holder near you. After you are notified of the firearm’s arrival, you have to go through all the steps (verification of identification, ATF Form 4473, NICS check, and if a handgun, either a permit to purchase a handgun or a North Carolina concealed carry handgun permit) just as if you had walked into a store and purchased the firearm out of a display case. Be aware that a handling fee may also be charged by the local FFL holder. Handling fees range from $25 to $50 per visit, or in some cases per firearm.

Gun Shows

Think of gun shows as a collection of FFL dealers under one roof. Purchasing a firearm at a gun show means you have to go through the same steps as purchasing a firearm in a store (ID check, Form 4473, NICS check, permit to purchase, etc.). Plus, you get the added benefit of paying the gun show organizer an entrance fee. However, gun shows also offer the visitor an opportunity to see and purchase many non-firearm items and collectibles that would not ordinarily be available in a single store.

Jargon: Intentional, Accidental, and Negligent Discharges

Jargon: Intentional, Accidental, and Negligent Discharges

Intentional, Accidental, and Negligent Discharges

There is no doubt almost everyone in the U. S. has probably seen the video of the FBI agent losing control of his handgun as it fell out of its holster while he was doing a backflip, and the discharge as he picked it up. Subsequent news reports frequently term it an “accidental” discharge–I contend it was a negligent discharge. Regardless of whether it is termed accidental or negligent, this is an example of unsafe handling, and one from which we, as responsible handgun owners, can learn.

When it comes to firearms, there are three categories that address the manner of its discharge: intentional, negligent, and accidental.

Intentional Discharge

An intentional discharge is when the firearm fires under the control of the shooter. All the active and passive mechanical safeties have been disengaged by the shooter in anticipation of releasing a shot, and the firearm is purposefully pointing in the direction intended by the shooter.

Accidental Discharge

An accidental discharge is when the firearm fires unexpectedly as a result of a malfunction of one of the components, either in the firearm, or in the ammunition itself. A common type of accidental discharge among automatic firearms is a “cook-off.” This is where the chamber has become so hot that if a cartridge sits in the chamber, the heat from the chamber will cause the powder to ignite. Accidental discharges also include soft or improperly seated primers, where a floating firing pin (that is, one where its forward motion is not retarded by a firing pin spring, but “floats” in its housing) strikes the primer as the bolt closes, causing a discharge. Another example includes firearms discharging when they are dropped. Properly designed and maintained firearms will NOT fire when they are dropped, however under some conditions, e.g., extremely worn parts, parts out of design tolerances, or poor design, etc., a firearm may discharge if it is dropped.

Negligent discharge

This brings us to the third type of discharge–one due to negligence or mishandling of the firearm on the part of the shooter. The FBI dancer in the recent video is an example of a negligent discharge. As one watches the video, it is obvious the firearm did not discharge as it hit the ground. It fired when the owner attempted to retrieve it

Many contemporary firearms have only passive safeties. That is, all the safety mechanisms to prevent accidental discharges are disengaged by the natural manipulation of the firearm as the shooter prepares to fire. In many firearms, that consists of a partially cocked striker, a firing pin block, and a pivoting trigger or trigger lever, where a mechanical stop on the trigger itself prevents the internal part of the trigger from completing the firing cycle unless the trigger is fully and properly engaged. Part of the intent is that with a firing pin block, and a mechanical stop on the trigger, inertial forces exerted on the firing pin and trigger from a dropped firearm will not cause a discharge.

One of the first safety precautions shooters are taught is to keep the finger out of the trigger guard until they intend to fire. This includes picking up a firearm as it lays flat.

Lessons Learned

My guess is that several factors came together to cause the negligent discharge caught on video. It is almost certain that the firearm falling out of the holster was unexpected. The unexpected and public revelation of his firearm likely caused some considerable degree of consternation to the agent to get the handgun back under his control as quickly as possible. Apparently, in his rush to pick up the handgun, he allowed his finger to enter the trigger guard. As he contracted his fingers to grasp the handgun sufficiently for a firm grip–bang.

As responsible concealed carry permit holders, there are several lessons we can learn from this video as we carry concealed.

  • Be aware that your movements, especially extreme movements as portrayed in the video, may cause your handgun to separate from your holster. Those extreme movements are probably ones that would be better avoided. Don’t telegraph that you are carrying a concealed handgun, but never forget it, either.
  • If your handgun does unintentionally come out of your holster, whether in public view or not,  use extreme care to keep your finger out of the trigger guard as you pick it up. It is likely that you will be in a hurry; nevertheless use care.
  • Further, in some jurisdictions simply allowing your firearm to be seen in public might be construed as brandishing, or “going armed to the terror of the people.” Keep your legally concealed handgun concealed.