Ammon Bundy fails background check for Idaho gun purchase

UPDATE: Ammon Bundy says the FBI has reversed its decision and will now allow him to purchase a firearm.

Ammon Bundy, who was tried but not convicted in two federal standoffs, went to a local sporting goods store on Aug. 31 in Emmett to buy an AR-15 rifle.

The store said it could not sell him the firearm because he failed a federal background check.

“I have an absolute right to purchase a gun,” Bundy told the Statesman on Tuesday.

Bundy, who bought a home in Emmett a few years ago, said he has not been convicted of any felonies, so he said there is no reason he should fail a background check.

Felony convictions are not the only criteria that lead to a failed background check. Other flags include domestic violence convictions, dishonorable military discharge, being in the country illegally, a fugitive from justice or if the person is under indictment.

“I have been acquitted in two federal districts ... and I am still being treated like a felon,” he said.

Bundy and his family have been in news headlines for the past five years following their involvement in two armed standoffs, one at a family ranch in Nevada in 2014 and one at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in eastern Oregon in 2016.

Prosecutors charged Bundy with numerous felonies in connection with the two standoffs, but he was never convicted.

An Oregon jury acquitted him on all charges in connection with the Malheur occupation, and the judge declared a mistrial in the Nevada case.

Bundy said he is concerned about the integrity of the federal background check system when it denies someone who has no felony convictions.

According to a U.S. Government Accountability Office report, in 2017, NICS processed 8.6 million background checks. Of those, just 112,090 were denied.

“I intend to expose it,” he said.

“I look at this as basically a direct violation of my right to bear arms that is protected by the Constitution as listed in the Second Amendment,” he said. “I plan on pursuing the matter, but I am not sure how yet, whether it will be politically or legally.”

Bundy: ‘I have every right to go purchase a gun’

Bundy used his phone to take an hourlong video of his attempt to buy the firearm and then posted it social media.

After completing the online federal background check form, and narrating his response to almost each question for the video, Bundy waits for a response.

The National Instant Criminal Background Check System for firearms purchases is mandated under the 1993 Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act and is administered by the FBI, according the NICS website.

The computerized system uses call centers to run records checks on forms submitted by prospective buyers at federally licensed gun dealers.

If no background records match the buyer, the system responds with “proceed.” If there is a record match, the system responds with “delay,” while the records are reviewed and a determination is made. If any of the prohibitive criteria are met, the systems responds with “deny.”

According to NICS, in 2015, the average response time was 141 seconds. Bundy’s background check took 30 minutes.

When the response arrived, a store employee told Bundy, “They denied you.”

Bundy asked why.

“They don’t give me a reason. They won’t tell me,” the employee said.

In addition to felony convictions, a firearm purchase can be denied if the prospective buyer is:

A fugitive from justice.

Has recent controlled substance convictions.

Has been dishonorably discharged from the military.

Has been legally declared mentally “defective” or involuntarily committed to a mental institution.

Is illegally in the United States or has renounced his/her U.S. citizenship.

Is the subject of a protective order.

Has been convicted of any misdemeanor domestic violence crime.

Is under indictment.

In the video, the employee says he cannot sell Bundy the firearm and explains how Bundy could go online and file an appeal.

“I’m sorry for wasting your time,” Bundy says before leaving the store.

“That is a direct violation of my constitutional right,” Bundy says on the video moments later from his vehicle, noting that he is not a felon and the only thing on his record is a speeding ticket.

A Statesman background search found Bundy received a speeding ticket in Idaho last year and one in Arizona in 2005.

Bundy told the Statesman this is the first time he has tried to purchase a firearm since he was released from federal custody in January 2018.

When federal authorities arrested Bundy in Oregon, they seized any property he had with him, including his wedding ring and several firearms. Bundy said even though the trials have ended with no convictions, those items have not been returned to him, which, in part, is why he went to purchase a semi-automatic rifle on Saturday.

The only firearm Bundy personally owns now is a “small .22 ... it is not of any ability to defend myself,” he said.

Bundy said he decided to purchase an AR-15 because “it has the ability for home defense, to truly defend, but also, to be honest with you, with the talk about the red flag laws and that movement, you feel and sense that your ability to purchase those types of guns are going to be restricted more and more. I felt, because of that, motivated to purchase that and it would replace one of the guns taken from me and never returned.”

Bundy said on video and to the Statesman that he will get a firearm by other means.

“They only have the power to try and stop me from doing it through a licensed gun dealer,” he told the Statesman. “My position is they are breaking the law. I have every right to go purchase a gun through private means or to build one. I do intend to do that.”

In another video posted to social media later the same day, Bundy said being denied the firearm purchase “forces me to go on the street to find a gun. I will do that. I will find one. It will be a good weapon.”

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Idaho Statesman investigative reporter Cynthia Sewell was named Idaho Press Club reporter of the year in 2017 and 2008. A University of Oregon graduate, she joined the Statesman in 2005. Her family has lived in Idaho since the mid-1800s.