Gun Store Owner Supports Improved Background Check System

Jan 14, 2016

President Obama recently outlined a series of executive actions he said will help reduce gun violence, including improving the background check system. We talked with a Columbus gun store owner who thinks improving the system is a step in the right direction.

It may be a Tuesday afternoon, but that does not keep people from target practice at L.E.P.D. Firearms and Range on Bethel Road. 

Owner Eric Delbert gives a tour of the gun range. 

The gunfire sends vibrations through the floor…

Delbert opened the gun store with his dad, three years ago. They’re former police officers.

“Our main focus has always been training, and the safe, responsible ownership of firearms. So everything that we do has that as an underlying message," he said. 

So when Delbert heard President Obama say he wants to improve the background check system as part of his plan to curb gun violence, Delbert did what many might consider an odd step for a gun store owner, he agreed.

“We’ve said for a long time that we felt like the background check system had a lot of inefficiencies," Delbert said. "The core of it was good, but it had a lot of inefficiencies that could be improved upon to impact change.”

President Obama’s executive actions call for hiring more than 230 additional background check staff members and a 24-7 system to help speed up processing.

It’s that response time, Delbert said, is critical during a gun sale.

“When we run a background check it’s done through the computer, and it is intended to be an instantaneous check. So when we run it through, we input the information from the individual, and about 93 percent of the time we get an instantaneous result back, either proceed with the sale or that the sale was denied.”

The rest of the time, Delbert said, the sale is delayed, maybe because of a common name or something in someone’s background that makes them ineligible to buy a gun.

Delbert is supposed to hear back within three days whether he can sell the gun.

“In today’s environment, the vast majority of time, we never hear anything back," he said. 

According to federal law, Delbert can sell the gun after three days, even if there’s no response on the background check.

“If we release a gun at that point, historically, there have been a certain amount of individuals who the system comes back later and says uh-oh, that should’ve been a denial. That’s a serious issue. (Has that ever happened to you?) [It] has not happened to us.”

According to the FBI, in 2012, the ATF received more than 3,700 cases in which a gun was sold to someone it shouldn’t have been because of the background check delay.

But Delbert said he thinks speeding up the system will help reduce that. He points to the deadly South Carolina shooting where the shooter purchased a gun after the three-day delay.

“He walked out of the store legally with the firearm only to be told later that he shouldn’t have had it, and by the time they tried to figure out where he was then the shooting had already occurred. So there is definite evidence that this will have an impact," he said. 

But to Delbert, the President’s other executive actions won’t do much. Delbert said smart gun technology will be expensive and leaves room for potential electronic malfunction and criminal hacking.

He added requiring every gun seller at gun shows to have a license and conduct background checks goes after the wrong people.  

“The overwhelming majority of firearms that end up in the hands of the criminal, and are ultimately used in crimes, are coming from 1. Stolen guns and from 2. What is called a straw purchase. Having somebody who is legally able to buy it, buy the gun and give it to person who’s not," he said. 

Jennifer Thorne, with the Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence, maintains all of the president’s executive actions will make a difference. She called the licensing requirement a “huge” victory.

“There are some people that are expecting more. But I think what we need to do is celebrate this victory and recognize that progress on this issue unfortunately, like a lot of issues, is incremental," she said. 

Tune in to All Sides with Ann Fisher this morning at 10 for an in-depth discussion about the background check system.