Black Friday’s NICS Blackout

10 highest days in the 24 years of NICS. 3 of them this month… so far.

OK, it was more like a brownout, but we’re always suckers for alliteration and parallelism around here. Inevitable result of combining an expensive education and cheap thrills. In any event, sellers everywhere are complaining that last week’s top sales day became a lost sales day because the FBI’s NICS system kept crashing. Some see it as a conspiracy to suppress sales, by lefties in the government.

Define “everywhere”? Alabama. Arizona. Colorado (at least as far as delays are concerned). Maine. West Coast states. Virginia. We thought we saw one from Missouri, but couldn’t find it again.

The FBI doesn’t love the members of the gun culture any, and there are those among them that seem eager for the role of partisan political police — as in l’affaire Petraeus. But in our view, it’s probably incompetence, not enemy action. Our points of evidence:

  • We weren’t blogging yet last year, but the exact same thing happened then. So if it’s a conspiracy it’s a remarkably slow-acting one that’s content to strike only on high volume days.
  • Despite the FBI’s failure (for which no one at FBI will ever be held accountable — they’re bureaucrats, after all) they still managed to set a record.
  • The online e-NICS system ran all day without a single burble. So those FFLs and SOTs willing to install a jeezly certificate on their PCs or Macs and operate a browser had a faster way to do instant checks.
  • The FBI has no backup, failover, or fail-safe system for NICS. It has dozens of single points of failure. And nobody’s evaluation at the FBI depends on it working. So guess what happens?

The FBI said they supported 154,873 NICS checks on Black Friday. Last year, which was also plagued by outages and crashes, they supported 129,166. Over the whole weekend, 283,423 checks were processed, versus last year’s 215,192.

In a later, revised statement, the FBI’s spokesman crayfished away from the bureau’s earlier admission that the system had gone down:

“The NICS never actually went down,” said FBI spokesman Stephen Fischer. “The call centers experienced two short outages — one of 14 minutes and one of 18 minutes. These outages were caused by exceptionally large call volume.”

How’s that again? It didn’t go down, but there were “outages.” Unfortunately, this quibbler works for an agency that sends agents into courts to testify under oath. Let’s give the bureau another chance to explain:

According to FBI officials when West Coast gun dealers opened for business on Black Friday the system was briefly impacted and FBI officials decided to take call centers offline so systems could catch up with calls that were already in the queue.

Oh, so it was only for a few minutes! So where does this come from?

“We had several delays that didn’t clear till the following morning,” said Chuck Nesby the Chief Firearms Instructor at NOVA Firearms in Fall Church, Va.

Somebody’s not telling the truth.  Also, it’s interesting to note that unspecified “FBI officials” can — and do — take the system off line on a whim.