Citing a ‘catastrophic hardware failure,' Maryland State Police report delays in gun background checks and licenses

Maryland State Police warned this week of delays to background checks for those purchasing firearms because of a “catastrophic hardware failure” to a state data system.

The hardware failure of the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services has caused an interruption in the state police department’s licensing division’s ability to complete background investigations for regulated firearm purchase applications, handgun qualification license applications and state wear-and-carry permit applications, state police said in an advisory Monday.


State police said that beginning Tuesday, applications to purchase firearms from a dealer, which require a seven-day wait period, will likely take longer due to the failure. In response, the agency is asking regulated firearms dealers not to transfer firearms until background checks have been completed.

“The MDSPLD encourages [registered firearms dealers] not to transfer these firearms until background checks have been completed,” the agency said.


State police spokesman Greg Shipley said in an email Tuesday night that the agency cannot access all of the usual databases checked due to the system failure and are asking dealers to hold pending regulated firearm sale releases past the seven-day waiting period.

“They are not required to by law and if they choose not to, we have set forth a procedure listed in the attached advisory to ensure we have a record of that release, should an issue arise later when our full access to the database system is restored,” Shipley said.

He said the licensing division “has a staff on standby and a plan of action to work around the clock to complete background checks as soon as the system is restored at DPSCS. We are hoping the issue will be resolved as soon as possible,” he said. Shipley said he could not say when the problem would be fixed.

Maryland Shall Issue, which advocates for gun rights, said Tuesday that it is monitoring the situation.

‘We are informally advised that this systems failure should be remedied in a “couple of days’ [maybe sooner] and that DPSCS is working hard to fix the problem [it is causing major disruptions across a whole host of services performed by State government],” the statement said.

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The president of Maryland Shall Issue, Mark Pennak, said, “once again, we are frustrated by the state bureaucracy,” which makes it difficult for those lawfully obtaining a firearm from doing so.

The recent failure, he said, is especially troublesome now for those who legally want to purchase handguns, and have already completed steps, such as mandatory training, and must wait.

Those wanting to purchase handguns, he said, must complete two background checks, one by state police, and then later at the firearms dealer.


Pennak said there has been an increase in demand among those wanting guns amid concerns over recent unrest and uncertainty around the pandemic.

“Lots of people want guns now, and people have a right to defend themselves,” he said.

Pennak said he believes most dealers will abide by the agency’s request.

“Nobody wants to have prohibited person from buying a handgun, but they don’t buy them from dealers,” he said. Dealers, he said, “they will wait, but won’t wait forever.”