In the wake of ObamaCare passing Congress, Time is highlighting the top ten knockdown congressional battles. One of them they highlighted is the Brady Act, but in typical old media fashion, they get the details wrong:
Once the Brady Bill was signed into law in 1993 â€” instituting a five-working-day waiting period and background check for any gun purchase â€” the NRA funded lawsuits that challenged its constitutionality. In 1997, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that forced federal background checks were unconstitutional; these days, background checks are carried out by state and local officials.
What they are referring to is Printz vs. United States, and in Printz, The Court did rule that forced federal background checks were unconstitutional, but the detail Time gets wrong is that it was state and local government who were being forced by the feds. They assume it to be individual gun shops, and get the remedy completely wrong.
The Printz case said that what was unconstitutional was the federal government forcing the state and local authorities to do the federal background check. The Printz Court ruled that, as separateÂ sovereigns, states were not political subdivisions of the United States, and could not be forced to administer federal programs.
The Printz issue did not rule that the background checks were unconstitutional in and of themselves, just that the local policeÂ couldn’tÂ be forced by federal law to carry them out. This only applied to the period of the Brady Act before the National Instant Check System (NICS) went into effect. During that period, and after the Printz ruling, whether or not there was a background check was completely voluntary on the part of the local police, and many did not perform them. Sales were permitted to proceed, even if the police did nothing, provided the Brady waiting period was complied with.
This issue all went away once the National Instant Check System (NICS) was in place. Once NICS went active, background checks then had to proceed through the federal system, which is administered by the FBI. Under the Brady Act regulations, states can voluntarily act as Points-of-Contacts for NICS, and route background checks through their own systems, but a majority of states have no system, forcing firearms dealers in those states to use the federal system.
It would only have taken a few minutes of googling to get the correct history, but hey, this is probably why Time is in the toilet right now with a dwindling subscriber base.
UPDATE: IIRC, Printz was consolidated on appeal with a similar case, also in the 9th Circuit, called Mack v. United States. Jay Printz is a Sheriff in Montana (an NRA Board member now, BTW), and Mack was a Sheriff in Arizona. The Attorney of Record for Sheriff Mack was none other than Dave Hardy.