FBI Computer Glitch Halts Gun Sales Nationwide

July 7, 2008 - 7:02 PM

(CNSNews.com) - A computer glitch, caused by problems with FBI software, has put a halt to gun sales around the country. The FBI's Interstate Identification Index, a database which contains the criminal histories of 36 million people, stopped working Thursday and is expected to be out until sometime Sunday.

FBI spokesman Paul Bresson said the problem had nothing to do with hacking or external attacks.

The computer failure has made it impossible to check criminal histories, which might reveal past felony convictions. Such convictions bar people from purchasing guns. The problem impacts gun dealers in all states, including those where the background checks are done through state police agencies. In those states, law enforcement officials must also check the FBI's criminal histories, in addition to their own files.

When the system is functioning, 72 percent of gun purchases are approved within 30 seconds, while 95 percent of the buyers are able to get a decision within two hours.

"We can't release any guns to our customers, until it's fixed," said Art Harris, a gun dealer from Bethesda, Maryland. "We haven't lost any deals yet, but Saturday is our biggest day. I suppose some gun buyers are angry over the delay, but our customers have been very understanding."

"We had four prospective sales Friday, but we can't deliver the guns, because we can't get approvals," said Tommy Thacker, manager of a gun outlet in Leesburg, VA. "We just tell them we'll call them when the system is up."

Under the Brady Bill, named for James Brady, the White House Press Secretary who was shot and seriously injured during an assassination attempt on the life of former President Ronald Reagan, law enforcement agencies have up to three business days to complete a gun check. However, the three-day period does not officially start until the computer accepts the application.

In addition to the Interstate Identification Index, the software problem also impacted the FBI's Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System.