Original thread on THR: http://thehighroad.org/showthread.php?t=312059
Here's the story:
Here's the story:
On or about April 15, 2007, I purchased a gun from a seller on Gunbroker. I had it shipped to an FFL in Somewhereville, GA. It arrived some 10 days later. I immediately went to the FFL, filled out a 4473, and waited. 10 minutes later, the owner of store comes back and says, â€œIt was DENIEDâ€. I was dumbfounded! I had never done anything wrong that would prevent me from owning a handgun. I had never spent a night in jail. I knew that it must be a mistake! The FFL/store owner told me that I could leave the gun with him, and that he would hold it until this matter was resolved. He also offered to sell it for me should I decide to go that route. It was clear, though, that the minute the â€œDENIEDâ€ came across the telephone that he believed me to be guiltyâ€¦ that I was a crook. He did not say so directly, but in a round about way, â€œIâ€™ve never known anyone to get a denial overturned. Generally, if the person gives a Social Security number on the application, there is little chance of mistaken identity.â€
He gave me the NTN (denial) number and a pamphlet describing the appeal procedure. In reading the procedure, it all seemed on the up-and-up. They make it appear that your appeal will be handled in a timely manner, so I was hopeful that in a few short weeks this would all be cleared up and I would be allowed to take possession of my gun. One can hopeâ€¦.
I immediately created a letter to the FBI/NICS to state that I had done no wrong, that I was a law abiding citizen, that did NOT have one of the disqualifiers for owning a firearm. To their credit, they followed the letter of the law and acknowledged my appeal within 5 days. THIS IS THE ONLY LEGALLY MANDATED TIMEFRAME THAT THEY HAVE TO MEET DURING THE APPEAL PROCESSâ€¦. TO SEND AN ACKNOWLEDGEMENT LETTER WITHIN 5 DAYS. The acknowledgement letter included a demand for fingerprints, which cost me $20 to obtain at my local PD. Folks, that is $20 moreâ€¦ on top of the FFL feeâ€¦ that this citizen had to fork over because of NICS.
Then, I proceeded to wait.. and wait. During the wait, I considered what might be the caseâ€¦ maybe SCUBA diving on Buford Dam, which resulted in a trespass ticket, somehow triggered this? Maybe my wife filed a restraint order against me during our divorce that I did not know about? In any case, I knew it must be a mistake. I had never done anything wrong that even remotely set off a disqualifier. To that end, I decided that I was going to get a gun anyway. In the following months, I purchased the following guns: a .40 S&W handgun, a .22lr rifle, an AK-47 rifle, and an SKS rifle. If anything, this taught me that the NICS system does not work. It prevented a law abiding citizen from getting a handgun, but did not stop that same citizen from purchasing firearms in FTF sales. I started reloading, put about 1000 rounds through my handgun, several hundred through the SKS/Aks, and another thousand through the 22lr.
I waited into Juneâ€¦ then Julyâ€¦ then August. By this time, I was getting mad. I called my Senatorâ€™s office, Saxby Chambliss. His office requested the information that I had sent to the FBI, and a signed statement that said that they could inquire on my behalf. After giving them background on the case and the signed statement, it took about a week before I received a reply from NICS.
This time, the NICS letter said that I was, in fact, the person that was disqualified. They included a printout from the Georgia Crime Information Center (GCIC) and the reporting agency , the SmallTown Police Department. In examining this information, I determined that my record showed that I was a convicted DRUG FELON, and had been for some 24 years! Now, mind you, I had an arrest in SmallTown in 1983. I paid a $33 fine in SmallTown Municiple Court. This was all in my record. As it turns out, either the Smalltown PD, the municipal court, or the GCIC hamfisted the data input and input a code for a drug Felony. Everyone blamed everyone else. One thing was clear, though, is that the reporting agency was listed as the SmallTown PD, and they were the agency that had to issue a letter to correct it.
Anyway, I was now at 4 months into my appeal, and JUST finding out exactly why I was denied. I strongly believe that if it had not been for the actions of Senator Chambliss, I most certainly would still be waiting for a reply from the FBI. You see, the FBI makes it clear that their only time constraint is to acknowledge your appeal in 5 days. After that, they can take as long as they want to â€œresearchâ€ your case. It is quite apparent to me that they spent all of 5 minutes researching my case in 4 months of waiting. At least I finally knew what the problem was and where to go to start fixing it.
The next day, I got on the GCIC website to view their records correction procedures. They needed a statement from the reporting agency on reporting agency letterhead in order to correct an error on the GCIC database. The FBI needed a similar statement to correct the FBI database, but warned that the GCIC database would need to be corrected before they rechecked it, as all reporting agencies would have to be clean before they would clear a gun purchase. My next stop/phone call was to the records department at the SmallTown PD. Fortunately, I talked to a very nice clerk who had been in the office for 25 years. She stated plainly that they no longer keep records from that time period. They were not computerized at the time. When they went to computers, they entered in all of their paper records into the computer and shredded them. So, they had no proof (or disproof) that I had ever been through their PD or municipal court system. Second lesson learned: the law abiding citizen has to somehow prove his innocence, and that might not even be possible. They have no proof that you did anything other than having taken your fingerprints, and a 25 year old record in a computer. You have no proof that you didnâ€™t do anything. How could you prove that you did not do what they said you did 25 years ago? Well, in this case the proof was in the record itself. Had my crime been a drug felon, it would not have been handled in municipal court, the fine would have been much greater than $33, and I would have spent time in prison. Since none of these was true, my record contradicted itself. It was an obvious mistake, BUT the clerk said that this was an error by the municipal court and that I would have to talk to them. So I did. They were just as nice, but said that the error was by the PD/jail, so they would have to fix it. Finally, I got the PD and the Municiple court clerks together for a discussion. While they all agreed that it appeared to be a mistake, they were reluctant to fix it as they would have to change a felony to a misdemeanor. They did not want to do anything, except that they were reminded of the section of the Georgia code that allows me to sue them (the PD and the municipal court), and if successful, to get my record changed AND reimbursement for my legal fees. Frankly, I did not have the money to mount a legal challenge. If I could not coerce them to change my record, I would have to remain a felon. I asked if I could have an appointment to speak with the Chief of Police of SmallTown PD. Since it was his office that would have to issue the correction letter, it was he who was going to make this easy or hard on me. The PD records clerk clearly did not want this to happen (me to meet with the chief), so she said that she would meet with him on this matter and see what could be done. Several days later, after they had met on this matter, the Chief had decided that it was a mistake, and had a letter drawn up and sent to the GCIC. At my request, I had a copy of that letter signed and forwarded to me.
After getting the letter in hand, I called the FBI. They were pretty much as rude as they could be. You see, the FBI will take original erroneous records from reporting agencies, but they have no way of automatically amending a record that was amended at the state level. So, the state can get you automatically and erroneously labeled a felon by the FBI, but you have to get your FBI record corrected yourself. How nice. A local agency bungles your record, and leaves you to deal with the FBI by yourself to clean it up. That, and they recheck your state record (GCIC). So the GCIC has to be cleaned up BEFORE the FBI rechecks your record BUT they wonâ€™t automatically sync your record with the cleaned up state record. Thus, you have to hope that the GCIC does their thing in a timely manner so that it is reporting correctly before the FBI re-checks your record.
So, before forwarding to the FBI, I had a talk with the Georgia Crime Information Center. These people were also as rude as they could be. When I inquired how long it would take to update my record, they stated 4 months. I was incredulous. They ham-fist my record, turn me into a felon, and then declare that it will take 4 months for them to fix their mistake. â€œSir, we have over 20,000 requests for changes.â€ I had several replies to that: â€œIf those requests are for people who are INNOCENT of the mistakes that GCIC have made, donâ€™t you think you have a responsibility to get it done faster than 4 months? And since you are propagating this erroneous information around the country and into the FBI database, donâ€™t you think that you have a responsibility to propagate CORRECT information to those agencies and databases? If I get stopped tomorrow, I will be treated as a recidivist FELON while the letter that proves my innocence sits on YOUR desk? Further, what if I have to get a new job? How will I answer the â€œhave you ever been convicted of a felonyâ€ when your database shows that I am a felon? When I filled out my sonâ€™s Boy Scout troopâ€™s permission to do a background check last night, I answered â€œNOâ€ to the felony question. What are they going to find when they inquire in the GCIC database? Finally, this is my 2nd Amendment right we are talking about. You took it away. Are you saying that you do not have the resources to restore a personâ€™s constitutional right in a timely manner for a mistake that the GCIC made? And if you canâ€™t do it in a timely manner, than NICS canâ€™t do it in a timely manner, and that defeats the purpose of NICS, doesnâ€™t it? Shall I write to my state and national senators and demonstrate to them that NICS is not the timely golden process they claim it to be because the State of Georgia cannot keep itâ€™s commitment to update NICS in a timely manner?â€ He was truly P.O.â€™ed at this point, but I had made myself clear. I then asked, â€œhow can I check to see that the changes were madeâ€? He replies, â€œYou can get a copy of your record for $20 plus a fingerprint card (another $20).â€. To that I replied, â€œYou mean I am going to have to spend $40 MORE dollars to make sure that you have corrected a problem that your agency made in the first place?â€ Anyway, I got to him. He said that he would do what he could to speed up the process. I could only take him at his word and that fact that I had his name and would make it known to everyone involved that GCIC had failed to meet their commitment to report information in a timely manner to the FBI/NICS database. But this goes to another point: funding. If your state doesnâ€™t fund the accurate and timely updating of erroneous information, then your 2A rights can be infringed long after you have proven your innocence.
So, I could tell that the guy was going to try to bump my record and get the changes made sooner than later. We are now in mid-September, 4.5 months after my denial and 4 months after the acknowledgment of the appeal. I went ahead and sent the PDâ€™s letter stating that I am not a felon and requesting that all databases containing the erroneous information be changed to the FBI, along with a letter that repeated my assertion of the right to own a firearm and the respectful request that my rights be IMMEDIATELY restored, and that I be allowed to take possession of the gun for which I was denied. I waited. A week later, they sent an acknowledgement of my letter. Three weeks later (October 22, 2007), they sent a letter and certificate indicating that the denial had been overturned , and that I could take possession of the gun. I immediately went to the FFL and picked up my weapon. His wife was there, pulled out my gun, and followed the instructions on the certificate. Everything went through, and the gun was mine. She stated that it was the FIRST time that they had ever seen an overturned denial. I wonâ€™t forget that they treated me like a criminal when the denial originally came through.
All in all, it took nearly 6 months start-to-finish to appeal the NICS denial that resulted from a simple clerical error. This process would have been much more difficult if not for two reasons: 1) my record was obviously erroneous. Any fool could see it. But that wasnâ€™t enough to get action. 2) Georgia has a code section that allows the individual to sue the state/reporting agency to have gun rights restored, and that the state/reporting agency will pay the legal fees for a successful restoration. I am convinced that this potential financial obligation on part of the SmallTown PD influenced their decision to work with me. The same goes for the GCIC. They knew that I could sue them for the change, and expose their rudeness and unwillingness to expedite the restoration of my constitutional rights. They didnâ€™t know I didnâ€™t have the money to pursue this, but the threat that I might was enough to make them do the right thing. Had this been an error which did not result in a denial of my 2A rights, I would have had to mount a legal challenge with my own funds to get it changed.
Overall, I was pleasant and willing to work with folks who would see the obvious injustice that had been committed, and expedite the correction of those errors. I was belligerent with agencies who (first) treated me like a criminal and wanted to drag their feet. Nonetheless, it took almost 6 months to appeal a NICS denial for an obvious error committed at the local level.
Folks, this is not justice. What part of â€œshall not be infringedâ€ was followed in the taking my rights? During the process, I have read THR. I have looked at the polls that show 65% of you think that NICS is a good thing, and (despite being â€œthe high roadâ€) I have developed a heck-of-a-lot of contempt for that 65% who were willing and eager to allow infringement on my gun rights in order to keep theirs. And, yes, 65% of you are willing to infringe on the gun rights of 30,000 people YEARLY (like me) who are able to successfully mount a legal challenge to their denial. There is no excuse for that attitude. Your willingness to go along with the system and be happy about it signals the eventual end to your own gun rights. As for me, I will vehemently oppose any and all efforts to expand NICS , and demand that they increase the timeliness of their investigations. My case should have been resolved in three weeksâ€¦ not 6 months.
NICS is not a good thing. As long as a $12 an hour clerk has the ability to affect the gun rights of law abiding citizens (without an expedited and timely restoration process for those rights), NICS does not work. As long as those who are responsible for the update of State and Federal databases canâ€™t do so in a timely manner, NICS does not work. As long as a person who has been denied by NICS can go out and get a gun FTF, NICS does not work. As long as law abiding citizens have to prove their innocence for something found in a databaseâ€¦ for which there are no records or evidence other than the database entryâ€¦ NICS does not work. As long as the law abiding citizen has to front the money necessary to mount a legal challenge to an erroneous record found in the GCIC or FBI database, NICS does not work. Law abiding citizens should not have to jump through hoops at all levels of government to correct an error made by government.
To the 35% that see NICS as a total failure, more power to you. You see the truth in this government lie. People will deride you with jokes of tin-foil hats, but I now know from personal experience that you are the folks that have a grasp on reality. In the recent debates about â€œmental healthâ€ qualifications for possessing a gun, one rather prolific THR poster extols the virtues of the right to appeal. When I look at what I went through to get a simple mistake corrected, I KNOW what a load of BS that argument is. I am sure that he states it in all sincerity. But until heâ€¦ and the other 65% on THRâ€¦ actually have to go through the appeal process, please do no bore us with arguments that NICS is not an infringement on the 2nd because one can appeal for the restoration of rights. You speak from ignorance.
Besides buying a gun, how else has this affected me? Looking back, it appears to have cost me several jobs. Several jobs were offered, and then rescinded after the background check. I never checked my own background because I suspected nothing. The job offers were always, â€œthey have decided not to hire anybody at this timeâ€, â€¦ AFTER they offered the job. I think now that the FBI and GCIC databases prevented me from getting those jobs. I had no idea that I was listed as a felon. Why would I?
If I can help it, I will never again fill out a 4473. I will never again go through an FFL to get the (incompetent) governmentâ€™s permission to purchase or possess a gun.