In a story that USA Today described as an “exclusive” piece of “breaking news,” the publication misled readers about the timing of FBI gun retrieval requests.
Despite the breaking news and exclusive designations, the information revealed in the report was taken from a seven-month-old public document and does not indicate any new action from the FBI. Instead, the 2016 National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) Operations Report, which the USA Today story is based on, indicates that over the course of the entire year the agency sent 4,170 requests to the ATF for firearms to be retrieved from those who failed a background check but only after the three-day delay period had expired. The same report summarizing the background check system’s functioning has been released near the beginning of the following year since the system was implemented in 1998 when the FBI sent 3,849 firearms retrieval requests to the ATF.
Since 2012, the publicly available reports posted on the FBI’s website show the number of firearms retrieval requests the FBI sent to the ATF have fluctuated between 2,500 and 4,000.