Senator Addresses Firearms Dealers Access to Loans, Background Check Delays

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) today stressed that federal agencies and financial institutions must protect Second Amendment rights as COVID-19 relief programs are implemented.

Hyde-Smith addressed Second Amendment rights in a pair of letters to federal officials, including those administering the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) to aid small businesses.  The Mississippi lawmaker also joined a letter to federal law enforcement officials regarding the background checks delays for firearms bought by law-abiding citizens during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

“Constitutional rights, including the right for law-abiding citizens to bear arms, cannot be abandoned with COVID-19 response and relief efforts,” Hyde-Smith said.  “The scope and breadth of coronavirus programs are unprecedented, and we must be vigilant to protect our Second Amendment rights as we continue to fight this pandemic.”

Hyde-Smith is among 19 Senators urging the U.S. Treasury Department, the Federal Reserve, and Small Business Administration to take actions to ensure large financial institutions end bias against law-abiding firearm businesses applying for PPP loan assistance.  The Senators contend in a letter that some large financial institutions are denying service to firearms makers and sellers “based on political reasons that have nothing to do with creditworthiness.”  (Read the letter here.)

On another front, Hyde-Smith joined Senators John Cornyn (R-Texas), Tim Scott (R-S.C.), and others to encourage the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) to alleviate background check delays caused by the increased demand for firearms during the COVID-19 outbreak.

“We understand that the surge in gun purchases has resulted in the immediate determination rate falling below 90 percent and a significant increase in the number of NICS checks that have been placed into delayed status.  We understand further that there have been significant delays in the review and processing of those transactions,” the Senators wrote to FBI Director Christopher Wray and acting ATF Director Regina Lombardo.

Also related to background check delays, the lawmakers asked Lombardo to consider ATF guidance to firearms dealers regarding the legality and appropriateness of accepting expired drivers licenses and identification during the COVID-19 emergency.  Individuals purchasing a firearm must present a valid form of government identification with a picture of the buyer.

The Senators also asked for information on how the FBI and ATF are working with gun owners and the firearms industry to promote firearm safety and security.

“We appreciate that the current national emergency has brought about unprecedented challenges for the FBI and the ATF, and we appreciate that your agencies are working with significant challenges for staff and resources.  We are confident that through your leadership, we can work together to ensure that NICS remains up and running during this crisis and that law-abiding citizens are not deprived of their constitutional right to keep and bear arms, especially during these uncertain times,” the Senators said.  (Read the letter here.)