Despite the government shutdown, the Federal Bureau of Investigation will continue to run background checks on certain firearm sales that require them.
While cultural institutions and other "nonessential" federal departments are subject to furloughs, parts of the FBI are not, as outlined in a Department of Justice contingency plan, according to Bloomberg. The FBI is staying open since most of its resources are spent on national security and law enforcement.
"Excepted personnel are needed because all operations of the FBI are directed toward national security and investigations of violations of law involving protection of life and property," the Justice Department's contingency plan reads. "Thus, the FBI must be able to continue existing investigations, open new investigations, and respond to all contingencies which might arise during a lapse of appropriations."
This means the employees at the Criminal Justice Information Services Division, which is responsible for "fingerprint identification services to criminal and national security investigations," and at the Records Management Division, which "provides name check services to criminal and national security investigations" will be running. The National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) will also be running.
If the NICS was closed, some firearm purchases that cannot be completed without background checks would be stalled.
On the contrary, for those looking to obtain a gun permit, there might be some difficulty as many employees at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives won’t be working to approve and evaluate.
When the government shut down briefly in the fall of 2013, gun sales also continued. Since the NICS is considered a federal law enforcement division, employees were not furloughed then either.
The government shutdown started on Saturday midnight ET, after the Senate failed to reach a funding deal for the government. Although the House passed a temporary spending bill, Senate Democrats and Republicans failed to reach a bargain. Democrats did not want to see a short-term bill passed and want Congress to protect the "Dreamers," people who came to the U.S. as children with their parents. The re-funding of CHIP, an insurance program that provides children whose parents do not qualify for Medicaid but cannot afford private insurance, has also become a bargaining chip.
The shutdown means that thousands of federal employees will be furloughed. More than half of IRS employees will not be able to work, while more than 95% of employees at the Housing and Urban Development, Environmental Protection Agency and Education departments will be furloughed.
The Trump Administration did vow to keep open-air national parks open, even though they will not be staffed by National Park Service employees.