On August 6th, Project Veritas released a video of CEO James O’Keefe trying to purchase a firearm. In the video, he is shown being told by several different gun store owners that the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, or NICS, has listed O’Keefe as a felon and flagged him as ineligible to purchase firearms. O’Keefe immediately filed a lawsuit against the FBI in order to have his name removed from the registry.
The lawsuit stated, “Plaintiff James Edward O’Keefe, III, has never been convicted of a felony or any other crime punishable by more than one year of imprisonment. Despite this, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has illegally placed Mr. O’Keefe on a federal watchlist designed to preclude convicted felons from purchasing firearms by falsely claiming Mr. O’Keefe has in fact been convicted of felony and has subsequently repeatedly, wrongfully, and without justification denied Mr. O’Keefe the ability to purchase a firearm. Mr. O’Keefe brings this action to seek an order requiring the FBI to remove Mr. O’Keefe from this list as required by law under 18 U.S.C. §925A“.
Today, Project Veritas and James O’Keefe announced that the flag was removed from the NICS list. “This is a victory for all Americans. No law-abiding citizen should be wrongfully denied the basic right to bear arms,” said O’Keefe, who attempted to buy the shotgun July 26. “Throughout this ordeal, I have learned from too many people about the hassles regular Americans have gone through just to exercise their right to keep and bear arms,” O’Keefe said.
“It should not be so difficult to exercise a right the Constitution says should not be infringed,” he said.
“The FBI removal from NICS is effectively an admission that he shouldn’t have been there to begin with, the lawsuit will continue in order to find out who placed James on the list and why he was kept on the list wrongly for seven years,” said O’Keefe’s attorney. “A number of reporters have misled readers to believe false information about James’ background and we will continue to pursue corrections if it is misreported,” said Ede.
In 2010, O’Keefe pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor in connection to an investigation he and two others conducted into Senator Mary Landrieu’s staffing of incoming constituent phone calls. O’Keefe was given a fine and a three-year probation.
In the Justice Department filing, which resolved the case, the prosecutor wrote: “In this case, further investigation did not uncover evidence that the defendants intended to commit any felony after entry by false pretenses despite their initial statements to the staff of the Senatorial office and G.S.A. requesting access to the central phone system. Instead, the government’s evidence would show that the defendants misrepresented themselves and their purpose for gaining access to the central phone system to orchestrate a conversation about phone calls to the Senator’s staff and capture the conversation on video, not to actually tamper with the phone system, or to commit any other felony.”
Of particular note, one of the owners of the gun stores had this to say, “I just want to say: ‘Congratulations’ to him,” said Brian Olesen, the owner of Empire Army Navy. “This is the very first time we have had a victory after a negative disposition in the NCIS system”. Olesen said it took former local congressman John Sweeney five weeks to get a firearm purchase approved. “He ended up going through twice. They never told him what the problem was, so he assumed it was political.”
“This was not a mistake,” said Richard “Dick” Heller, whose successful 2008 lawsuit overturned the District of Columbia’s handgun ban and kicked off the current revival of gun rights across the country. “I don’t think the FBI does anything by accident.”
The veteran of the Army’s 101st Airborne Division said he strongly urges O’Keefe to find the people in the FBI responsible for stripping him of his constitutionally protected gun rights and to sue them individually as well for their infringement of his civil rights. “James O’Keefe is a prominent figure, so hopefully his case will shed light on what the FBI is doing to other people, too, and maybe they’ll be forced to stop it,” he said.
“Everyone knows James is a great American and everyone knows he is not a disqualified person,” said Alan Gottlieb, the founder of the Second Amendment Foundation. “The only way to find out if you are on this list or in the database is to go and try to buy a gun,” Gottlieb said. “It happens a lot to people and we get complaints about it all the time.”
The SAF founder said going through the administrative process to remove your name takes six to nine months and some people can never get their records fixed.