Not Shooting Straight: Background Check Liars Rarely Prosecuted -

Not Shooting Straight: Background Check Liars Rarely Prosecuted

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The FBI can quickly detect if a person is lying when a dealer runs a background check.

It transfers those denials to the ATF. Only a fraction of the cases are actually passed along to field investigators and even fewer are ever prosecuted.

"Why in the world do we not follow up and you know apprehend them. It is so broken it just boggles my mind," U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, (R) SC, said.

Graham opposes the expansion of the background check system, he says there are too many flaws in existing laws.

7 On Your Side asked Graham what he wanted the U.S. Department of Justice to do.

"Enforce the law. And if you fail a background check and it's not an innocent mistake, do something about it," Graham said.

The Department of Justice's Enforcement of the Brady Act report details the amount of background check applications, denials and charges referred for prosecution. The latest data available is from 2010.

For 76,000 failed background checks only 33 people faced charges.

By the end of the year, 13 people pleaded guilty.

"I've asked them do you need more money," Graham said. "I think it's the will. I think they just don't believe this is a real crime."

Bill Nettles is the U.S. Attorney for the district of South Carolina.

7 On Your Side asked if he and other prosecutors are being too soft on these offenders.

Nettles said he could only speak for the Palmetto State.

"Let me be clear about this. We take these cases very seriously and if you are lying to get a gun and we find out about it, we can prove it, we're going to prosecute you," Nettles said.

According to the 2010 data set, 40 percent of cases didn't advance because the Department of Justice found no prosecutive merit.

But only a fraction ever make it to prosecutors in the first place.

"All I know is that we can only prosecute cases that get brought to us," Nettles said.

Nettles also pointed out that to his knowledge, in the three years he's been a U.S. Attorney, he'd never turned down a background check lying case.

A spokesman for the ATF said it comes down to prioritizing resources.

The cases that slip through the cracks could mean more trouble down the road.

People included in a 2008 study commissioned by the Department of Justice in 2008 had an 80 percent increase in gun-related arrests in the years after a background check denial.

"Perhaps they're frustrated, or perhaps they're unsurprised and they have a plan B for how they're going to secure a firearm," criminologist Robert Brame said.

Brame studies repeat offenders.

He's not sure if clamping down on background check liars would have much of an effect. He points to surveys taken by prisoners which show they'll find a way to arm themselves anyway.

"Most of the time these people tell us they got guns from a family member, they got guns from a friend or they got a gun out on the street," Brame said.

To Sen. Graham prosecuting the liars is a starting point.

"There is no deterrent in the current system, let's fix the current system," Graham said.

Nettles' office is moving forward with one high profile case right now.

That involves Alice Boland. A Grand Jury indicted her with making a false statement to purchase a firearm.

Police say Boland attempted to shoot up a school in Charleston earlier this year.

Who Can't Buy a Gun:

The Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act of 1993 mandates a criminal history background check on any person who attempts to purchase a firearm from a federal firearms licensee.

The act prohibits the transfer of a firearm to a person who:

- Is under indictment for, or has been convicted of, a crime punishable by imprisonment for more than 1 year.
Is a fugitive from justice
Is an unlawful user of, or addicted to, a controlled substance
Has been adjudicated as a mental defective or committed to a mental institution
Is an illegal alien or ahs been admitted to the US under a nonimmigrant visa
Was dishonorably discharged from the US Armed Forces
Has renounced US citizenship
Is subject o a court order restraining him or her from harassing, stalking or threatening an intimate partner or child
Has been convicted of a misdemeanor  crime or domestic violence
Is under age 18 for long guns or under age 21 for handguns


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