NICS Background Checks
The FFLs have the following three methods of performing background checks depending upon the state in which the FFL is conducting business:
1. In states where the state government has agreed to serve as the POC for the system, the FFLs contact the NICS through the state POC for all firearm transfers. The state POC conducts the NICS check and determines whether or not the transfer would violate state or federal law.
2. In states where the state government has declined to serve as a POC, the FFLs initiate a NICS background check by contacting the NICS Call Centers for all firearm transfers. The FBI conducts the NICS check and determines whether or not the transfer would violate state or federal law.
3. Finally, in states where the state government has agreed to serve as a POC for handgun purchases but not for long gun purchases, the FFLs contact the NICS through the designated state POC for handgun transfers and the NICS Section for long gun transfers.
Each state decides whether the FFLs in its state call a state POC or the FBI to initiate firearm background checks.
This function enables FFLs to initiate an unassisted NICS background check for firearm transfers via the internet. The NICS Section ensured that security was a priority during the development and implementation of the NICS E-Check. The NICS E-Check is monitored 24 hours a day, 7 days per week, for misuse and unauthorized access. In addition, the NICS E-Check denies access to any individual whose identification is not known to the system.
Privacy and Security of NICS Information
The privacy and security of the information in the NICS is of great importance. In October 1998, the Attorney General published regulations on the privacy and security of NICS information, including the proper and official use of this information. These regulations are available on the NICS website
. Data stored in the NICS is documented federal data and access to that information is restricted to agencies authorized by the FBI. Extensive measures are taken to ensure the security and integrity of the system information and agency use. The NICS is not to be used to establish a federal firearm registry; information about an inquiry resulting in an allowed transfer is destroyed in accordance with NICS regulations. Current destruction of NICS records became effective when a final rule was published by the Department of Justice in The Federal Register
, outlining the following changes. Per Title 28, Code of Federal Regulations, Part 25.9(b)(1), (2), and (3), the NICS Section must destroy all identifying information on allowed transactions prior to the start of the next NICS operational day. If a potential purchaser is delayed or denied a firearm and successfully appeals the decision, the NICS Section cannot retain a record of the overturned appeal. If the record is not able to be updated, the purchaser continues to be denied or delayed, and if that individual appeals the decision, the documentation must be resubmitted on every subsequent purchase. For this reason, the Voluntary Appeal File (VAF) has been established. This process permits applicants to request that the NICS maintain information about themselves in the VAF to prevent future denials or extended delays of a firearm transfer. (See VAF Section below.)
Individuals who are denied the purchase of a firearm may request that the NICS or the state which processed their transaction provide the reasons for the denial. The regulations address the process for filing an appeal. Appellants must include the NICS Transaction Number (NTN) or State Transaction Number (STN) assigned to their transaction. To ensure all necessary information is received for the appeal request, the NICS Section encourages appellants to apply for the reason for their denial via the NICS Appeal
website. Appellants without Internet access may submit their appeal via the NICS Appeal facsimile at (304) 625-0535, or by mail to the FBI, Criminal Justice Information Services Division, NICS Section, Appeal Services Team, Module A-1, Post Office Box 4278, Clarksburg, WV 26302-4278.
Voluntary Appeal File (VAF)
Potential purchasers experiencing extended delays or erroneous denials may apply to be considered for entry into the VAF by signing an applicant statement that authorizes the NICS Section to retain information that would otherwise be destroyed upon the approval of the firearm transaction. This retained information includes, but is not limited to: a fingerprint card, court documentation, correspondence, and information contained in the applicant’s appeal file if one exists. A complete NICS check is still required for future purchases and will result in a denial if additional prohibitive information is discovered. The NICS Section is required to destroy any records submitted to the VAF upon written request of the individual. A VAF application can be obtained via the NICS Appeals
website. Applicants without the ability to print the application from the Internet may contact the NICS Customer Service at 1-877-FBI-NICS (324-6427).
For the FFL to initiate background checks with the NICS Section, the FFL MUST BE ENROLLED WITH THE FBI. Enrollment packets may be obtained by contacting the NICS Section via mail at 1000 Custer Hollow Road, Clarksburg, WV 26306, via e-mail at email@example.com
, or via telephone at 1-877-FBI-NICS (324-6427).
Persons holding firearm permits which qualify as alternatives, per the ATF, under the permanent provision of the Brady Act are not required to undergo a NICS check.
The former pawnshop exemption for background checks on individuals who are redeeming firearms ceased to exist on November 30, 1998. NICS background checks are required for the transfer of redeemed firearms, including both handguns and long guns.
The NICS Section attends ATF regional firearms seminars in selected states around the country to provide a NICS overview, answer questions, and provide updates on new developments in NICS operations.
More information may be obtained by accessing the Resources for Federal Firearms Licensees website
Federal Categories of Persons Prohibited From Receiving
A delay response from the NICS Section indicates the subject of the background check has been matched with either a state or federal potentially prohibiting record containing a similar name and/or similar descriptive features (name, sex, race, date of birth, state of residence, social security number, height, weight, or place of birth). The federally prohibiting criteria are as follows:
- A person who has been convicted in any court of a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year or any state offense classified by the state as a misdemeanor and is punishable by a term of imprisonment of more than two years.
- Persons who are fugitives of justice—for example, the subject of an active felony or misdemeanor warrant.
- An unlawful user and/or an addict of any controlled substance; for example, a person convicted for the use or possession of a controlled substance within the past year; or a person with multiple arrests for the use or possession of a controlled substance within the past five years with the most recent arrest occurring within the past year; or a person found through a drug test to use a controlled substance unlawfully, provided the test was administered within the past year.
- A person adjudicated mental defective or involuntarily committed to a mental institution or incompetent to handle own affairs, including dispositions to criminal charges of found not guilty by reason of insanity or found incompetent to stand trial.
- A person who, being an alien, is illegally or unlawfully in the United States.
- A person who, being an alien except as provided in subsection (y) (2), has been admitted to the United States under a non-immigrant visa.
- A person dishonorably discharged from the United States Armed Forces.
- A person who has renounced his/her United States citizenship.
- The subject of a protective order issued after a hearing in which the respondent had notice that restrains them from harassing, stalking, or threatening an intimate partner or child of such partner. This does not include ex parte orders.
- A person convicted in any court of a misdemeanor crime which includes the use or attempted use of physical force or threatened use of a deadly weapon and the defendant was the spouse, former spouse, parent, guardian of the victim, by a person with whom the victim shares a child in common, by a person who is cohabiting with or has cohabited in the past with the victim as a spouse, parent, guardian or similar situation to a spouse, parent or guardian of the victim.
- A person who is under indictment or information for a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year.
A delay response indicates that information you supplied on the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Form 4473 has been matched with information contained in the National Crime Information Center, the Interstate Identification Index, and/or the NICS Index. Complete disposition information is not always available and a further review of these records is necessary. The NICS Section exhausts all efforts to retrieve current record information by contacting all applicable law enforcement agencies, i.e., local, state, and federal courts, etc. The Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act of 1993 allows three business days to obtain this information before a Federal Firearms Licensee (FFL) can transfer a firearm. The FFL is not prohibited from transferring the firearm after three business days have passed; however, the FFL is not required to transfer the firearm.
The Privacy Act of 1974 restricts the dissemination of specific information to you via the telephone. Under the provisions of Title 28, United States Code, Sections 16.30 through 16.34, you can obtain a copy (for a fee) of any identification record the FBI may maintain on you by contacting the following unit at the address and telephone number provided:
Federal Bureau of Investigation
Criminal Justice Information Services Division
Attention: Correspondence Group, Module D-2
1000 Custer Hollow Road
Clarksburg, WV 26306
Telephone Number: (304) 625-5590