Press Release

For Immediate Release
April 19, 2007

Washington D.C.
FBI National Press Office
(202) 324-3691

Response to Inquiries on the FBI's National Instant Criminal Background Check System

The Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act of 1993 required the Attorney General to establish the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). This name check system is utilized by Federal Firearms Licensees to conduct background checks on potential buyers of firearms or explosives. The purpose of the background check is to ensure national security and public safety by providing the timely determination of a person's eligibility to possess firearms or explosives in accordance with the federal law.

The NICS interfaces with the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) and the Interstate Identification Index (III). Descriptive data provided by the perspective buyer is searched and verified against records in NCIC, III, and the NICS index. The NICS contains records, provided by federal and state agencies, on individuals who have been (a) dishonorably discharged from the Armed Forces; (b) are unlawful users of or addicted to a controlled substance; (c) have been adjudicated as a mental defective or been committed to a mental institution; (d) are illegal or unlawful aliens; or (e) have renounced their U.S. citizenship. In addition, the NICS automatically checks criminal history records to identify convicted felons and those convicted of misdemeanor crimes of domestic violence and also checks NCIC files for active wanted persons, protection orders, and deported felons.

There are six categories for entry into the NICS, two of which are related to individuals determined to be "mental defectives." These files are the Mental Defective File and the Denied Persons File. Currently, 22 states1 submit mental health information to the NICS Index through these two files.

In accordance with regulations set forth by the Brady Law, specific information must be provided to the NICS Index, including supporting documentation to prove an individual was adjudicated as a mental defective or involuntarily committed for treatment. If state legislation or privacy laws prohibit the sharing of mental health information, states can provide information for inclusion in the Denied Persons File of NICS with no specifics on the mental health issue. The Denied Persons File also includes convictions not in the NCIC or III, indictments and informations, warrants, misdemeanor crimes of domestic violence and protection orders.

As of April 1, 2007, the Commonwealth of Virginia has entered over 80,000 mental health records into the NICS index, along with over 104,000 into the Denied Persons File. In addition, Virginia is the leading state in reporting mental defective entries for the NICS index.

On August 24, 2006, the FBI released its annual report highlighting the performance of the NICS. According to the report, from NICS inception on November 30, 1998 to December 31, 2005, over 62 million background checks have been conducted. As of December 31, 2005, nearly four million prohibiting records were maintained in the NICS Index.

More Resources:
- 2005 NICS annual report
- NICS Brochure
- NICS website


1 Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, Washington and Wyoming



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