Federal background checks are denying gun purchasers under President Obama at about half the rate they did under President Clinton and also at a slower clip than during President George W. Bush’s administration, according to data obtained by The Washington Times under the Freedom of Information Act.
The federal National Instant Criminal Background Check System is designed to weed out would-be gun buyers with criminal records or histories of mental health problems. Gun control advocates have pushed for the system to be expanded in the wake of mass shootings as a way to keep firearms out of the wrong hands.
But statistics provided to The Times show that almost everyone who applies under the system is approved and it hardly matters which party controls the White House.
In 1999 and 2000, the two full years during which the system was operational under Mr. Clinton, just 0.83 percent of applicants were denied. During Mr. Bush’s eight years in office, the denial rate was about 0.67 percent.
Under Mr. Obama, the denial rate has dropped to 0.46 percent — and was even lower in the six months after the December 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School that renewed the focus on the system.
The total number of denials is publicly available, but monthly totals obtained by The Times show rates varying from as high as 1 percent, in February 1999 to as low as 0.33 percent in January 2013.