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The first step is to choose a gun. Miami Armory does not carry Hi-Point .45 caliber carbine rifles like the one shooter Benjamin Charles Jones used to carry out his attack. However, the rifles are fairly common, and can be attractive to buyers due to their low price point.
“They’re popular for those people that want a value driven gun,” Becker said.
Then buyers are required to fill out a Form 4473. U.S. citizens must provide a driver’s license or other form of I.D. (certain non-U.S. citizens can still buy firearms, but require additional documentation).
On the Form 4473, the purchaser must then answer a series of questions, including if they have been convicted of a felony, subject to a court order, if they are an unlawful user of drugs or controlled substances, or if they have ever been involuntarily committed to a mental institution.
“Those type of questions, as we go through those, if there’s a ‘yes’ anywhere in the following questions, that’s usually something we have to ask further questions on,” Becker said.
Customers can lie on their ATF Form. However, responsible sellers will do their due diligence at the counter, Becker said, observing the buyer and asking appropriate questions.
“Is it possible for somebody to lie? Absolutely,” he said. “We have the purview here that if I feel like the behavior is off, you’re nervous, your voice twitches, you behave in an odd way, we’ll stop that transaction. But if you’re a cool customer and you are still lying, there’s nothing that I can really do to stop you from lying.”
The store then immediately runs a background check on the buyer using the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. This system contains millions of records on people’s criminal records, immigration status, mental health adjudications, whether they have a medical marijuana card and much more.
This can result in a green light, a delay, or a denial. The only time a background check does not happen is when the buyer has a current Ohio CCW license, where a background check has already been performed.
“It rarely comes up that we get a denial but it’s almost automatic when you do,” Becker said.
Being involuntarily committed to a mental institution disqualifies a person from buying a firearm, but voluntarily admitting oneself to a mental hospital does not. If the store finds that the person has been involuntarily committed, Becker said, that is grounds for the seller to stop the transaction.
Jones was pink-slipped twice last year to a medical facility because of a mental health crisis, but it’s unclear if he was ever committed.
Very few denials of a firearm purchase are due to mental illness. National estimates indicate they comprise less than 4% of federal denials over the last 25 years. Most of the background checks that get denied at Miami Armory nowadays are for medical marijuana cards, Becker said. While marijuana possession has been legalized in Ohio, it remains illegal at the federal level, and thus disqualifies someone from owning a firearm.
“There is a conflict between state law and federal law. We’re obviously governed by federal law. So if we see you have a medical marijuana card, we’re probably going to stop that (transaction). It doesn’t happen often, but it’s happened enough that that’s kind of the big thing” Becker said.