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Guns sold without completed background checks in Maryland

A computer system failure delayed background investigations past a 7-day deadline. After the deadline, dealers can give guns to buyers even if check isn't complete.

PIKESVILLE, Md. — A small number of guns have been sold in Maryland without completed background checks due to a "catastrophic hardware failure" in the state's computer system, according to the Maryland State Police.

At least seven guns have been delivered to buyers, even though the background checks are not complete, authorities reported Wednesday.

"We are obviously concerned about individuals who may obtain a regulated firearm without a full background check being completed," wrote Maryland State Police spokesman Greg Shipley in an email response to questions from WUSA9.

The failure comes just as gun dealers are reporting a sharp upswing in sales.

Dealers are providing guns to customers without completed checks because Maryland gun laws say buyers cannot be forced to wait forever. 

After seven days are up, dealers can hand guns over to customers even if the background checks aren’t done.

The computer failure was reported Monday at the state's Department of Public Safety and has not yet been resolved, though progress is being made, according to Shipley.

The agency is asking dealers to voluntarily hold guns past the deadline until background checks can be completed. But some dealers contacted by WUS9 said they will not deny customers' right to pick up their gun after the seven days have passed. 

Maryland’s state background check system only applies to people who are buying handguns or assault rifles.

Buyers are already pre-qualified through a state licensing system that requires fingerprinting and firearms training. But even with the qualification license, buyers have to pass a final background check every time they buy a gun.

In a federal lawsuit, the gun rights organization “Maryland Shall Issue” said Maryland’s background check system is already unconstitutional, because the hurdles for legal gun ownership are too high. 

"The computer meltdown illustrates the highly obstructive nature that Maryland has employed to deter and discourage the application to buy firearms," MSI director Mark Pennak said. "Because people aren’t able to buy them without government approval.”

Maryland state police said the delayed checks will eventually be completed and the state does have the authority to take the guns back if someone fails.

That has not happened in any of the seven known cases, according to Shipley.

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