COLORADO SPRINGS–Unlike some other states, Governor Polis’ stay-at-home order classifies gun stores as “essential,” allowing the public to continue the brisk firearms sales that started with the advent of the coronavirus in Colorado.
The Colorado Bureau of Investigation (CBI), which is the point of contact for the FBI National Instant Check System (NICS) reports “unprecedented” numbers of background check requests that in the past have taken an average eight or fewer minutes and extended wait times to four days or more.
In an online update March 23, CBI reported 25,468 background checks for the week of March 17-22, up from 7,773 checks for the same time frame last year.
“The sustained demand has resulted in a queue of 12,442 with an average turnaround time of approximately four calendar days, which differs from business days,” says the latest report.
Federal law says that if a background check takes more than three business days (not including weekends and holidays) the gun store can release a purchased firearm at its discretion. CBI “strongly encourages” federal firearms licensees (FFL) to hold the firearms until the background checks are completed.
Should an FFL transfer a firearm and the buyer does not pass the background check, it’s up to law enforcement to go out and confiscate the weapon.
CBI says it is keeping personnel on the job and is cross-training staff members to assist in the process.
“That being said, the circumstances impacting communities across the state and the nation have posed significant challenges,” says the report. “The CBI continues to implement adjustments to address the demand and appreciates the patience of FFL’s and their customers.”
But those seeking new concealed handgun permits in Colorado seem to be out of luck. The permits are issued by the county Sheriff’s offices and all those contacted said they were suspending issuing them because doing so requires close personal contact with the applicant for fingerprinting and photography.
Jacqueline Kirby, Media Relations Manager for the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office told Complete Colorado Friday that social distancing policies department-wide have closed all operations that are not “mission essential.”
Asked if permit fingerprinting and photography could be completed if proper personal protection equipment were used, Kirby responded by email saying, “Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is considered a priority item, is in high demand across the country, and will be for those areas of the Office which may need the equipment and are mission-essential (Patrol, Jail staff etc).”
Kirby said permit renewals will continue to be processed and new permit renewal paperwork can be mailed to the Sheriff’s Office, but that the lobby has been closed to the public.
Governor Polis has taken a different position regarding the essential nature of firearms than other governors including Governor Phil Murphy of New Jersey.
As part of his order shutting down nonessential retail businesses, Murphy did not include firearms under the list of essential goods and services exempted from the order. On his orders, the New Jersey State Police shut down its NICS point of contact office entirely, making it impossible to take possession of a new firearm.
In response, a Glassboro, New Jersey gun store, Bob’s Little Sport Shop joined the Association of New Jersey Rifle & Pistol Clubs and one other plaintiff in filing a lawsuit in Newark federal court March 26 asking for an injunction, claiming Murphy’s order violates the civil rights of gun purchasers.
The lawsuit states, “When asked just yesterday why firearm retailers have not been deemed “essential,” Defendant Governor Murphy made his real motivation clear: “A safer society for my taste has fewer guns and not more guns.””
The lawsuit goes on to say the Governor banned “Second Amendment activity at the precise moment when the right to keep and bear arms is most essential. As is true in many States, the citizens of New Jersey face unprecedented social disruption due to the COVID-19 emergency. Police forces, strained to their breaking point by infection and scarcity of resources, must now also enforce a lockdown order and, as a result, have begun to prioritize policing more serious crimes. At the same time, public acts of lawlessness are becoming increasingly common and state officials have taken the unprecedented step of releasing inmates back onto the streets.”
A similar shutdown in Pennsylvania was quickly reversed and modified to require proper hygiene practices after being challenged in court.
In California, the NRA, 2nd Amendment Foundation, California Gun Rights Foundation and the Firearms Policy Coalition sued Governor Gavin Newsome and Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva over Villanueva’s closure of gun stores in Los Angeles County to all but police officers, licensed security guards and previously registered gun owners after Newsome said sheriffs had the authority to close them.