Dec. 5 (UPI) -- Authorities asked to seize more than 4,000 guns from buyers last year because they were purchased by individuals who were prohibited by law from owning a firearm.
The FBI said it issued the seizure requests after it found nearly 4,200 firearm purchasers were not qualified to have a weapon, for reasons that may have included criminal records or mental health problems.
It marked the greatest number of retrieval requests in 10 years, an FBI report showed.
The FBI's National Instant Criminal Background Check System is tasked with vetting millions of gun purchasers every year in the United States.
Analysts must complete background checks for potential gun buyers within three days of the proposed purchase. Under federal law, if the background check is not completed within the 72-hour limit, the buy is allowed to go through.
Agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are responsible for retrieving firearms from buyers who are later found to be unqualified for ownership -- a potentially dangerous task.
"These are people who shouldn't have weapons in the first place, and it just takes one to do something that could have tragic consequences," David Chipman, a former ATF official who helped oversee the firearm retrieval program, told USA Today, who first reported the story.
Stephen Morris, a former assistant FBI director, said the agents understand the risks of retrieving firearms from individuals.
"They are very aware of the inherent risk to law enforcement officers when they (seek) a firearm retrieval," Morris said.
It's not clear how many seizure requests were successfully executed last year.